On Friday, June 4th the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES) was requested by the Belize Forest Department to remove yet another problematic crocodile from Ambergris Lake this past weekend. According to eye witnesses, the croc had eaten several local pets, including a Pit Bulldog. Upon arriving on La Isla Bonita late Saturday afternoon, Crocodile Behaviorist, Vince Rose, immediately spotted the croc on the south shore of the lake and proceeded to easily lure it in with chicken on a string.
In the wild, a crocodile’s normal behavior would be to flee and hide when approached by a human. As apex predators, at the top of the food chain, their only predator is man himself. But when crocs are fed by humans, they lose their fear of man and become very dangerous. They will continue to approach closer and closer for that easy meal of un-nutritional, thawed, frozen chicken otherwise known as “croc candy.” Not only does this lead to crocodiles eating pets, but it will only be a matter of time before that particular croc will take a small child as food. It is imperative that residents and tourists alike try their best not to encourage the illegal feeding of these large “modern day dinosaurs.”
Initial observations by ACES’s Biologist Cherie Rose were that the croc was ill. From a distance she could easily see that its snout was covered with a whitish pigmentation, which is actually the sloughing of skin cells, often associated with Septicemia. Within the hour, Vince had literally reached out and placed a noose over the croc’s upper jaw. This was when the ACES team noticed that the crocodile had no teeth. Of course, with no teeth to hold the rope in place, it slipped right off when the croc death-rolled. After a second attempt, Vince opted to set up a snare and a net trap as a backup. At approximately 8 pm on Sunday night, after hours of preparation the 11 foot American Crocodile, Crocodylus acutus, took the bait in the net trap.
Crocodilians have the strongest bite force of any other animal in the world with up to 5,000 pounds per square inch pressure. This is more than a Great White Shark. So, even though the captured croc AKA “Bubbles” (called this because he stayed under the water longer than normal and all anyone could see was his bubble trail) had no teeth, he was quite capable of grabbing and drowning an 80 lb animal with ease.
Assisted by the community, and yes, even the Editor of the SPSun, Tamara Sniffin herself, the dangerous reptile was restrained without injury to croc nor human. Several local men and women from all parts of the community came together and voluntarily assisted with moving “Bubbles” to the Sniffin’ s residence for safe keeping until transportation could be arranged for his trip to the mainland.
With the ever increasing development of Ambergris Caye, croc-human encounters are eminent. Crocodiles are particularly attracted to Ambergris Lake because of its abundant food source. Not only is the lake filled with large fish, crocs’ natural prey, but incidental food waste is abundant as well. We all can do our part by being sure that food waste is discarded of properly and please report any illegal croc feeding activities.
Monday morning Coastal Xpress volunteered their services to take Bubbles to Belize City where a truck awaited to carry him to ACES’s Crocodile Sanctuary in Punta Gorda. Sadly, Bubbles never made this trip. While resting in his cool spot, Bubbles quietly passed away. Although this was anticipated by ACES, due to the croc’s ailing condition, it was one of ACES’s saddest moments. “We have never before had so much community support and participation on a croc rescue, and ACES truly hoped that Bubbles would make the journey.” Having rescued other crocs exhibiting similar symptoms, with treatment of antibiotics, vitamins, proper diet, freshwater, and lots of peace and quiet, they have recovered. The additional stress of capture on a crocs already deteriorated condition can lead to death. To date, ACES has successfully saved the lives of over 40 crocodiles country-wide, six of which were from Ambergris, and ACES has re-released twelve of those rescued crocodiles.
In order to have a better understanding of what caused Bubbles deteriorating health and untimely death, as well as collect biological samples, a full necropsy was performed on Bubbles on Monday afternoon. Tissue, blood, fat, and stomach fluid samples were all taken and will be shipped to the USA for testing to determine if Bubble’s death was caused by possible exposure to toxins, pollutants, or disease. Although the necropsy revealed areas of concern, the ACES team will refrain from speculating on cause of death until the samples taken have been properly tested. After the examination the croc was cremated in order to assure safe disposal of a possibly contaminated animal.
In conclusion, ACES would like to thank the Belize Forest Department, Carts Belize, Joe and Rhonda Lawrence and Rite Way Construction, Josh Buettner, The San Pedro Sun, Coastal Xpress, San Pedro Police Dept., the driver and his family with the black flatbed truck with Monster decals that helped move Bubbles when he was first captured, ACES Croc Crusader kids Marcos, Nesto & Efember (to name a few), Adrian Schweigler, SP Hardware, Los Caminates, Colette Kase and the community of San Pedro for all their help, support, and caring in the successful capture of such a magnificent creature. In ending, Cherie stated, “This experience has been very educational for all of us. We can only keep trying to stop both the direct and indirect feeding of the crocodiles and learn to live with them in peace, for this was their home first.”
For more information about ACES please visit their website at http://www.americancrocodilesanctuary.org.
San Pedro Sun