Submitted by Cherie Chenot-Rose, ACES Biologist
The American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES) was captured again last week, this time by a Polish TV company that was in Belize filming a World Wildlife Fund production. The show they are producing is about pollution, particularly plastics, in the world’s oceans and how it affects the wildlife.
The crocodile that was caught by the ACES team last Saturday for filming unfortunately was more than perfect for their production and the animal clearly demonstrated the issues at hand. ‘Footloose,’ named because he is missing his left hind leg completely, is a repetitive problematic crocodile from WASA lagoon area and is also very ill. Discoloration of his tail scales led the ACES team to believe the croc is ingesting a pollutant. This is not the first croc with this condition. In addition, for his length, ‘Footloose’ is severely underweight. This very well could be due to the ingestion of plastic. Although crocodiles have the strongest stomach acid in the animal kingdom, and are able to digest bone, hoof, horn, and even antler, they cannot digest plastic. Instead, the plastic solidifies into a hard resin-like substance and often stays in the animals’ gut forever. In fact, the worst is the plastic shopping bags.
Not only do endangered sea turtles mistakenly eat plastic bags, confusing them for jellyfish and then dying from the blockage, but crocodiles, as seen here, often eat them too, especially when they smell of fish or chicken. One bag can kill a 12ft crocodile. When the bag comes into contact with the stomach acid it hardens in a flat matter and takes up a large part of the crocodiles’ stomach; so that in addition to the risk of a blockage it also prevents the croc from being able to consume a large amount of food, thus slowly starving to death. ACES and the Belize Forest Department asks the public to please refrain from feeding our precious wildlife and properly dispose of your trash.