Illegal Feeding, Habitat Loss, Development and Abundant Garbage makes for problem Crocs
On Thursday, January 7th San Pedro Police OIC Dennis Arnold contacted the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES) regarding three problematic crocodiles residing in the DFC area. One croc in particular was in danger of being shot and had been seen residing under a family’s home where they feared for their children‘s lives.
With permission from the Belize Forest Department (BFD) to access and contain the animals, ACES traveled on Friday from Punta Gorda and found the crocs, as well as the reason for their recent invasion into the area. Many acres of protected Red Mangrove, which is prime American Crocodile habitat is in the process of being destroyed for the Sugar Caye development directly south of DFC. With the sudden loss of habitat the crocs are left wandering aimlessly looking for a new home. Additionally, the trenching activities had flooded some of the DFC housing area and resident’s yards were shin deep in water. With the cold temperatures the past few days, the shallow water warmed quickly and small to crocs as large as 12 feet in length could not resist the warm pools and possibly an easy meal.
These crocs have been hand fed for years by local boys as a tourist attraction and with the abundance of discarded food waste and garbage in the area these animals have learned to associate man as a food source. Not only is feeding the crocs illegal in Belize, but feeding wild Apex Predators is a very dangerous practice that leads to problematic animals. These animals soon lose their fear of humans and become beggars and scavengers.
On Friday afternoon ACES easily captured a nine foot croc and later that evening captured a 12 foot croc that aggressively approached their golf cart in search of food. On Sunday night ACES scouted the DFC area for more problematic crocs and discovered a dead four foot croc that died from human hands. The croc had been beaten to death and one front leg was removed, most likely as a trophy. It is illegal to kill these animals and anyone needing assistance in dealing with problem crocs should contact the police, BFD or ACES.
Monday, while preparing to transport the captive crocodiles to the mainland via barge, ACES was notified of a third problem croc in the Ambergris Lakes area across from Banyan Bay. BFD had received reports of concern from residents in the area and several pets had apparently fallen prey to the large croc. Within minutes upon arriving on the scene a 12 foot croc, which was basking on the shore was contained. ACES biologist Cherie Chenot-Rose quickly assed that the animal was perhaps the unhealthiest croc she had ever rescued claiming that it was grossly overweight from a poor diet of chicken fed to it by local residents and living in contaminated water. It also displayed no fear of people and was indeed a very dangerous creature.
With the assistance of several volunteers the three crocs were loaded onto a flatbed truck and transported to a barge headed to Belize City. The ACES team accompanied the animals on the barge where the animals were then loaded onto an ACES truck and transported to the ACES facility in Punta Gorda.
ACES is a non-profit organization committed to conserving Belize’s critical habitats and protected species through scientific research and education to prevent further extinction of species Worldwide and to preserve Belize’s wildlife for future generations. Funding is desperately needed to complete a new containment area for one of the newly captured 12 foot males and information about ACES and how to donate to them can be found at www.americancrocodilesanctuary.org.
ACES would like to thank SP Golf Carts, Elito Arceo, Rite-Way Enterprises, Island Construction and barge crew, San Pedro Police Department, volunteers from the SACNW, Christine Booth Cotton, Denise and Steven Lee, Architectural Engineering, the Belize Forestry Department, Yvonne Temsik and The San Pedro Sun for assisting with this rescue mission. While removing the crocs is not a long term answer, at least it saves lives for now. American Crocodiles are a protected species threatened of becoming endangered and community efforts like this not only help to save the animals but provide a safer community from dangerous and potentially deadly crocodile altercations.
San Pedro Sun