PRESS RELEASE from the Forest Department

The Forest Department is deeply saddened by the tragic death of Adriana Moody of Maypen village, who was fatally attacked by a crocodile while she was swimming in the Belize River around 3pm on the afternoon of Sunday July 17th.

Although the specific reasons are uncertain for what we suspect is a morelet's crocodile attack, the Forest Department reports that this unprovoked incident may have been the result of one or a combination of five reasons: (a) hunting for food and limited natural food source; (b) defense of nesting sites; (c) the male Morelet’s heightened testosterone levels; (d) loss of fear towards humans, and (e) direct or indirect feeding of crocodiles.

The Morelet's crocodile is the smaller of the two crocodile species found in Belize and can span over 8 feet in length (adult size range from 6 to 14 feet) and normally inhabits freshwater environments such as swamps, ponds, lakes and rivers. These crocodiles naturally prey on aquatic species, amphibians, reptiles and small mammals. A recent decline of their food source has forced crocodiles to seek alternatives, such as dogs and small mammals, whereby children may be at much greater risk than adults.

Notably, a recent trend has been observed that these animals increase their attacks during their breeding season, as well as the onset of the wet season. The Morelet's crocodiles become more aggressive between April and June and Morelet's males can become more defensive and territorial as a result of their heightened levels of testosterone during the breeding season.

A primary factor that has increased the likelihood of crocodile attacks has been their loss of fear for humans. When crocodiles are fed intentionally and unintentionally by humans, it increases the risks of the crocodiles becoming accustomed to human interactions and associating the presence of humans with food. Additionally, our expansion into crocodiles’ habitats has resulted in increased sightings of crocodiles and increased the risks of crocodile encounters, interferences and attacks.

The Forest Department advises the public to take precaution when conducting activities in freshwater environments by observing these safety guidelines to protect themselves, loved ones and property:

1. Keep children, pets, and livestock away from water edges, especially during peak croc hours at dusk and dawn;

2. Do not feed crocs; nor feed crocodiles with scraps or clean fish at boat docks, ramps and water edges;

3. Do not toss garbage or food scraps in water.

4. Be vigilant by looking for croc tracks to avoid croc territories;

5. Avoid swimming in these areas, especially during the dusk and dawn periods

6. Stand away from water edge when fishing;

7. Keep arms and legs inside boats when in croc territory;

8. Never harass crocs (even small ones).

Report any sightings of crocodiles around public areas to the Forest Department at 501-822-2079 or at [email protected]