Croc “George” Retires at 25

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 18, No. 37            September 18, 2008

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After the Belize Forestry Department deemed George a danger to people and suffering from poor health, they enlisted the help of the ACES team to relocate the croc from the WASA Lagoon south of San Pedro to the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary in Punta Gorda. Although the 13 foot, 600lb croc did not surrender to “retirement” without a fight he was successfully captured and relocated without incident.

Unlike most wild crocs that are naturally afraid of people, George has been conditioned to associate man with food from years of being illegally fed as a local tourist attraction. Easily lured within the catch zone by a chicken tied to a rope, George did not suspect what was in store for him.

Estimated to be 25 years old, George is missing the last two feet of his tail (apparently chopped off), several fingernails, scarred from an old bullet wound and over weight from years of eating frozen chicken. Life at his new home at the ACES sanctuary will ensure his health as well as the safety of the San Pedro community.

After carefully securing George in ropes, duct tape and net, the croc is “packaged” for transport to Punta Gorda.

Here George is released into his new habitat where he will live with several other crocs, one being “Debbie” who was relocated from San Pedro in July 2008. He is adapting well to his new home and if his heath can be maintained he could live to be 70 years old!

Press Release – American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES) – September 16th, 2008 –
    The Water Plant Lagoon’s resident crocodiles will surely miss their faithful main attraction. Known as ‘George’ by the locals, this 13 foot American Crocodile retired this past Sunday and relocated to ACES/American Crocodile Education Sanctuary in southern Belize. There George will live out the remainder of his life in a peaceful, safe habitat where he still can see children and teach people about crocodiles, but in a safe environment both for himself and humans.

        George decided that at his age, he needed to start caring more about his health and slim down a bit with a proper diet and professional care. See, frozen thawed chicken is not a natural food source for crocodiles and does not provide any of the proper nutrients a croc needs to live a healthy life. Such an improper diet can cause gout, diabetes, and heart disease in crocodiles just as in humans. Severely overweight and just plain sick and tired of frozen chicken, George was starting to eye up those tasty little tourists that were being readily made available for him at the illegal croc feeding shows. It was only a matter of time before he would decide to take a bite. Nearly half of all humans killed by Crocodilians are children under the age of twelve. And, forty percent of crocodiles killed after they attack have unnatural food in their guts…meaning they were being fed by humans. Fed crocs lose their fear of man and learn to associate man with food, making them both dangerous and easier targets for poachers.

        George spent his dedicated years as an apex predator in the lagoon area playing a vital role in maintaining a healthy, wetland mangrove habitat. Crocodiles like George keep down small mammal populations, such as rats and raccoons; as nest builders, they dig holes aerating the soil and carefully construct nests from vegetation which over the years adds land to mangrove areas and when their nests break down into peat, a moisture-absorbing plant matter that acts as a natural fire retardant; they control non-game-fish populations, such as catfish and eels, which otherwise would overpopulate and decimate resources for game-fish; when they travel from one place to the next over land, their heavy bodies make trails through the mangrove that are important for water flow; and they dig croc-holes to stay cool in during dry season which also provide refuge for crabs, fish and turtles. Perfectly adapted to their environment, these millions of years old modern day dinosaurs are truly happiest when they are just left alone to do those things crocodiles do.

        George wishes for the rest of the lagoon crocodiles that they are able to remain there in their natural wetland homes for the rest of their lives feeding on natural food sources, primarily fish and not have to relocate south to retire as he did. He hopes that the people of San Pedro begin to understand that tourists do not come to their beautiful island to see crocodiles being fed. They can see that at their local zoos in a safe environment. People would rather just observe crocodiles’ natural behaviors in their natural habitat from a safe distance. George desires that the local feeders who consider themselves croc experts quit harming the crocs in the lagoon with bad diets, quit putting unsuspecting tourists and their children in harms way, and instead educate themselves on crocodile facts which they can then share with tourists once they obtain their required Tour Guide License. Licensed guides can contact ACES for training seminars on proper wildlife viewing and crocodilian education.

        Finally, George would to thank all those who helped make his early retirement possible including the Belize Forest Department, Sysco, Tyrone of Tropic Air, Rick’s Hanger Café, The San Pedro Sun, San Pedro Police Department, Rite Way Construction, the Liquor Box, Moncho’s, Roberto Castillo from Day Tripper Tours, Duke’s Marina and especially ACES. ACES is a non-profit organization committed to conserving Belize’s critical habitats and protected species through scientific research and education in order to preserve Belize’s wildlife for future generations. George’s blood may even someday provide the cure for HIV and Herpes. For more information about ACES please visit our website at:
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