by Marisa Tellez Kohlman
I"ve been busy dealing with "problematic croc calls" and I gave this response to the community of Placencia yesterday and have received very positive responses. So, I'd figure I would share some of the highlights with you as a reminder or maybe new information to pass on... rainy season is here and crocs are more active, so there will likely be more sightings:
"I will be returning to the site tomorrow to continue to observe the croc’s behavior (although its possible he may have left). Ms. Leanne will be keeping a data log provided by us (the CRC) so that we can begin collecting data on the crocodiles movement, behavior… this type of information can provide us a wealth of knowledge that can help the local community to begin co-existing with these animals, mitigate human-crocodile conflict, and as how they say in Australia, become CrocWise (if anyone else is interested in being a CRC Citizen Scientist, please PM me).
Please know that the Crocodile Research Coalition is a research and EDUCATIONAL organization; we are working with the Forest Department to educate communities how to co-exist with wildlife. Simply removing a crocodile (particularly one that is not illustrating any aggressive behavior) solves nothing as another crocodile will just move in its place. The best thing we can do is learn how to safely live with them, and educate ourselves and the community on the Dos and Donts (attached picture). In addition to the “Living with Crocs” I wanted to add a couple more things…
1) Apparently there are a lot of raccoons in this area as a result of the trash and food pieces. Crocs eat raccoons, thus crocs are attracted to the large aggregation of “food.” Keeping the water’s edge and neighboring streets clean may lessen raccoons’ desire to stay in the area, thus less attractive for a croc to hang out in the area. Also… raccoons harbor a nematode parasite that can kill humans (I had a professor die because of this parasite); parasites kill WAY more humans in a year than crocodiles so in reality you should really be scared of the raccoons, or shall I say their parasite (I am!).
2) Maybe we need to find another solution than throwing fish scraps in the water, as this is definitely attracting the crocs (why do so many people find crocs underneath their house in San Pedro??? It’s because crocs are attracted to all the food scraps or fish scraps thrown on the side or under their house… as well as the trash that attracts the raccoons…). I will contact my colleagues in Australia and southern US to see what their strategies are amongst their fishing villages. But maybe for now, try not to throw fish scraps in that particular canal because that croc will definitely stay.
3) Make sure no one is harassing the crocs. It’s illegal, and allowing children or others to harass wildlife is only allowing the creation of a problematic crocodile.
4) Report anyone handling or keeping crocodiles as pets. Research shows handling crocodiles continuously, makes them lose their fear of humans-they become complacent. Most people release crocs after a certain size; don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution! If you know of anyone keeping crocs, please let us know.
Important information to know: the 2 species of crocs here in Belize are not man-eaters. What you see on Discovery or Animal Planet the majority of the time is shows about Niles and Australian crocodiles because they are big, mean and MAN-EATERS. That excites the viewers. And yes you have the shows on alligators but many over-exaggerate the “excitement” (as someone who use to consult for animal wildlife production companies, trust me I know). It definitely seems that people think the crocs we have in Belize are the same crocs in Australia or Africa, but they are not. There are rarely any attacks in Belize (look this up in CrocBite World Database), and the attacks that have happened were related to people or communities feeding the local crocs. If these crocs are left wild, they will remain wild. And then we can enjoy them, and appreciate them for their important services they provide for the local ecosystem (which includes fishing which we depend on). And let’s not mention the economic opportunities they could provide for the local community (croc night tours anyone???? As someone who used to work in Louisiana with alligators, tourists love these type of tours!).
Experts in the world agree simply removing crocs does more damage (both to crocs and communities) than good. Removing, removing and removing is not educational at all, and then their becomes a point you become part of the problem (as you are harassing the crocs, and illustrating to the community how much they need to be feared). "
Let's try to promote a CrocWise community here in Belize!
Keep you, your family, community and pets safe- DON'T FEED THE CROCS! Feeding crocodiles is illegal in Belize (and in many other countries) and its to ensure that wildlife stays wild, but also it ensures the safety of the community by mitigating human-crocodile conflict. If you know of anyone feeding crocodiles, please report to Forest Department.