Crocodile Sanctuary on mission to save 30 Crocs
Last year, the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary was set on fire by an angry mob of villagers in the Toledo District. The villagers had wildly suspected that two missing children had been eaten by the crocs. It was a horrific act based on predictions of a fortune teller. Well, ACES has relocated to the Ladyville area and with funding from the Summerlee Foundation, ACES and the Belize Vivarium in Belmopan embarked on a mission to rescue thirty crocs. But as things go, a total of thirty-two were rescued today, of which twenty-two were taken to the Ladyville sanctuary. News Five’s Delahnie reports.
Delahnie Bain, Reporting
More than twenty freshwater crocodiles have a new home at the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary, which is now housed at the Caribbean Shrimp Farm in Ladyville. It has taken about a month to construct the enclosed habitat and today ACES teamed up with the Forest Department to move in their newest tenants.
Vincent Rose, Founder/Owner, ACES
“Today what happened was, the Belize Forest Department needed our assistance in relocating about twenty-two crocodiles that have all been in containment facilities. What we’re building here is a facility for the Morelet’s, it’s a fresh water, natural containment facility and this is where these crocodiles will be now. All these crocodiles, because they’ve been in containment cannot be let go in the wild. That’s the whole thing so it’s great that the Belize Zoo is going to take some, it’s great that Tony is and it’s great that we can as well. We all at least help save the species.”
Jazmin Ramos, Wildlife Officer, Forest Department
“We’re giving ACES a hand to relocate several problem crocodiles as well as misplaced crocodiles. So we came out as a department to give them a hand in relocating these animals to their new facility.”
Even as the crocs were being transferred this afternoon, finishing touches were still being done at the facility.
“The main facility where all the crocs are going to be will be done today. These are some holding pens just in case we were gonna arrive here with some very sick crocodiles. We weren’t sure of their condition so you put them in a containment facility, a holding facility and assess their damages or health issues and you nurse it back to health and then you can release it back into the big pond. But you need to have separation so a crocodile doesn’t cross contaminate healthy crocodiles.”
Fortunately, the holding pens were not needed today since the reptiles were in good health. Owner and Founder of ACES, Vincent Rose, gave me a lesson on safely releasing a crocodile, but he says capturing one is where real expertise is needed.
“You gotta know what you’re doing. You need to understand the animal, its behavior, what it’s gonna do. No one should just go out and try to catch crocs—of course, it’s illegal anyways. We’ve been doing it for ten years in country and out of country but you really need to understand the animal so you know how to capture or what he’s gonna do when you attempt to capture. You need to know how quick he is, if he’s gonna go right or left, if he’s gonna charge you. So the safest way that we do is we get a rope around his top jaw and we pull it out where we can work with it and then if it’s a big croc sometimes you put top jaw ropes on it, one man will pull this way, one man will pull that way and a couple people get behind him and jump on its head and body and I mean the most important thing is to get the mouth closed and taped as soon as possible.”
This big rescue mission is a part of the rebuilding process after ACES in PG was destroyed by fire last year. It is also a learning experience for the wildlife officers from the Forest Department.
“Given that ACES, they are the specialists, they have more experience, we just follow their instructions. So it’s basically receiving instructions from them and being as cautious as we can.”
“Is this something that you and the guys from the department have done before, moving crocs?”
“Yes, we have done it but not as often. But we’re getting there. We’re working more and more closely with ACES when they have problem crocodiles to basically—for technical and professional development.”
“ACES, American Crocodile Education Sanctuary, we’ve been trying to do crocodile conservation in Belize for eight years now and since the burning of ACES down in PG in September of 2010, we’ve been slowly rebuilding. And this is where we chose to build in partnership with Caribbean Shrimp Farm. We brought a shrimp farmer and crocodiles together—normally a shrimp farmer has problems with crocs—but Charlie has chosen to work with us and do crocodile conservation with us and protect these crocodiles.”
With a total of twenty-two Morelet’s and four salt water crocs, ACES doesn’t have room for anymore, until they can secure further donations to develop the sanctuary. Delahnie Bain for News Five.
Ten crocodiles over six feet in length went to the Belize Vivarium, which is run by Tony Garel in Belmopan. One is expected to be taken to the Zoo.