two exceptions to their natural shyness is when a female is nesting around March
and when a male is patrolling his territory from approximately January through
March. Major threats to the animals include habitat loss and degradation as well
as interaction with humans.
A management plan for SP was
proposed to address the community problem of co-existence with crocodiles since
it is usually human behavior which dictates crocodile aggression. The plan will
include an initial survey to establish the numbers of crocodiles on the caye.
This will be carried out with a team from Florida and local volunteers,
utilizing "eye shine counts" to record sightings at night using flash lights.
Dr. Mazzotti hopes to return in March so this can be started. Management plans
also require establishing goals and objectives, but much data must be collected
first. This includes mapping the crocodiles' habitat, tracking its migratory
patterns, and observing its reproduction and nesting habits before
implementation can be initiated.
Most importantly, a
thorough education program focusing on primary schools will be initiated. Elito
Arceo explained the importance of this aspect of the plan, stating children are
more apt to bring home information to their families, so everyone learns and
benefits. There would also be training for tour guides. One suggestion was to
fence a large area, up to 100 acres, where problem crocodiles could be moved,
initially. This could be used as a tourist attraction with guides giving night
tours. The education program would then heavily discourage feeding the remaining
crocodiles. Dr. Mazzotti emphasized the fact that crocodiles which are fed are
much more aggressive than those that are not fed. He reminded those gathered of
the intentional feeding which is to be stopped or even made illegal. Dr.
Mazzotti explained that non-intentional feeding occurs by piling garbage next to
lagoon waters and further insisted this waste needs to be managed by burning or
burying it. It was noted the Town Council does a good job of burning and raking
the town dump and therefore no crocodiles seem to be attracted to the area. Also
discussed were specific cases of crocodiles raiding fish traps and the number of
dogs assumed eaten by these predators.
Mazzotti described an example of moving a "problem croc" in Florida from the
East coast to the Gulf coast. The crocodile was marked for identification by
removing tail "scutes." Dr. Mazzotti surprised the crowd when he stated this
crocodile returned to its former home only months later by swimming all the way
around the Panhandle of Florida. He explained crocs will travel over 150 miles
to return to their previous territory, so removing problem crocs is also a
Following the meeting, Dr. Mazzotti and his
colleagues including local veterinarian Dr. Bronwen Eastwood took time to visit
El Pescador Resort on the north end of Ambergris Caye where a particular problem
with dogs being taken by crocodiles has occurred. Two crocodiles, a ten-foot and
another five-foot predator live on the edge of the resort's property. The resort
owners have lost two dogs so far, one of them a 100-pound black labrador. The
owner's other labrador "Kiara" has been injured twice, once severely, by the
larger crocodile. Dr. Mazzotti recommended the owners move their trash location
which is the major attraction for these crocs. He explained that is why these
crocodiles are even locating in the area which is much too small an area for a
normal habitat. Dr. Mazzotti, who observed the larger crocodile, also advised
barricades or fences be erected and the timely burning and raking of the trash
in the new location. He commented that these combined efforts should prevent any
further attacks. Dr. Mazzotti explained that once the trash is not a lure, the
crocs will eventually return to the lagoon waters at the back of the island away
from the resort. Mrs. Ali Flota, an owner of the resort, was quite appreciative
of the visit and stated "Dr. Mazzotti was extremely informative and I learned a
lot about how to make our environment less attractive to these predators while
still maintaining a balanced habitat."
the American crocodile, habitat loss caused by the development of nesting
beaches and adjacent nursery habitat for resorts or fish camps is the greatest
threat to this species. Identification and protection of key nesting areas are
essential for the continued survival of this species in Belize.
Human-crocodile interactions rarely result in
attacks. There are a few simple precautions that people can take to reduce
potential conflicts. The following is a list of everyday safety tips used around
the world to reduce potential conflicts with crocodiles.
1. DO use signs to
advise people of the presence of known crocodiles. Use signs to advise people on
how to behave safely when around crocodiles.
2. DO NOT feed crocodiles
either incidentally (disposal of offal from slaughterhouses, fishing operations,
or restaurants) or deliberately. Crocodiles quickly learn where food is and to
associate humans with food. This makes crocodiles lose their natural shyness
around humans and they can become quite bold in their efforts to be fed.
Crocodiles cannot tell where a handout ends and hand begins.
3. DO secure
your pets from crocodiles. More dogs are attacked than people. Do not let them
swim where large crocodiles are present. If a crocodile has successfully taken a
pet they may return again. Pets in areas of crocodile activity may have to be
kept in fenced-in areas.
4. DO not harass, molest, or attempt to capture
crocodiles. Do not attempt to catch small animals as large, protective adults
may be nearby. Do not keep crocodiles as pets. They readily become dependent on
humans. Captive crocodiles may be more aggressive than wild crocodiles.
swim during daylight hours and with a friend. Be aware of your surroundings. Do
not swim when large crocodiles are present. Do not swim in areas where
crocodiles are fed. Use common sense.
6. DO enjoy observing and
photographing crocodiles from a safe distance. Take advantage of crocodiles as a
natural history attraction for eco-tourism operations.
Residents and visitors alike should realize that crocodiles are an important
part of Belize's natural history heritage, and that these prehistoric reptiles
play an important role in the ecology of Belize's wetlands. An understanding of
these facts and a broader knowledge of crocodile behavior will ensure that
humans and crocodiles can continue their long-term