“One person can make a difference and every person should try.” This quote by JFK is embedded in my soul, as I live mydays believing I can make a positive impact in this world. For me, it’s to help bridge the gap between nature and man. I’ve seen it, and I’m sure you have too. History shows that one person can make a difference in what they are passionate in: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Jane Goodall, Steve Irwin… the list goes on, and on, and on. Nowadays, however, its hard to believe that one person can make a difference. With all the negativity being thrown in our faces from the world media, more and more people are pessimistic about our world’s future. Most have given up- that we are heading towards the apocalypse. Not me- I will be an advocate for wildlife and the environment until the day I die, and I know I can make a difference. How do I know- because today I have witnessed something that was thought impossible 6 years ago.
Today, my field research took me to the WASA Lagoon on Ambergris Caye. As the sun began to set, I noticed something – there were no crocodiles, no tourists, no locals illegally feeding the crocs as a show. What a difference compared to my first time on the island. A local group of teens would get tourists to come watch them feed and do “tricks” with the crocs, even coercing tourists to let their children sit on the crocs (seriously- this is true!!!!). Working with ACES, I went undercover to get the full story about what was going on. I went to the shows. I talked with the teens. I spoke with the tourists. It came clear that what was happening was not beneficial for man or croc. The crocs were losing their fear of humans, and appeared very unhealthy from a daily diet of frozen chicken (it’s like candy to them). The crocs were becoming more aggressive- some of these teens were bitten by some of the crocs. Also, the crocs saw humans as a food source, so they easily approached people, which made the job easier for poachers. It was going to be sooner than later that a tourist was going to get hurt. Working with ACES who informed and continually works with the Belize Wildlife Officer, we finally got the operation to stop. ACES continued to work with the police and local communities to educate the people of Ambergris the danger of illegally feeding these crocs, and the importance of crocs in their natural environment. It took at least a yearbefore all these “croc shows” finally stopped, but it stopped. Outreach to the community really made a positive difference. It may seem like a small win, but it is a big step for the conservation of crocs inBelize, and ACES is leading the torch for their preservation for generations to come. And I am glad that I have had a small part in that.
So, just as we were cleaning up and ending our evening at WASA, a 10ft croc decides to come 25 yards from us standing on the shore, just watching what we were doing. It amazes me that 6 years ago, this croc would have been running towards us looking for food. But now, this croc is being a croc. It’s respecting my space as I respect his. It’s a good feeling to know that I have made a difference, especially in a foreign country. Next step-to continue that work and passion worldwide.