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31 Days of the Mysteries and Magics of a Crocin’ March

They captured in their ramble all the mysteries and magics of a March evening.” — L.M. Montgomery

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March was truly a month of crocs in all its glory! The Crocodile Research Coalition (CRC) and our partners have been making great leaps in our progress on the Belize Nationwide Morelet’s Crocodile Population Survey. We travelled to the beautiful town of Sarteneja to further train Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD) on the habitat, eyeshine, and capture surveys that make up part of the Morelet’s Crocodile Population Survey.  We assisted SACD in capturing a 2 meter Morelet’s Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii). SACD were naturals in all things croc, and by far the most photogenic field crew ever!  

Directly following our northern adventures we headed to Belize City to conduct some outreach in regards to a large crocodile being sighted in a small neighborhood. One thing we discovered is many people believe they can not co-exist with crocodiles as a result of misguided information, false beliefs, and various media outlets misinforming the general public about co-existing with crocodiles. And interestingly enough, our 2 days with the people we found out the majority of the community didn’t mind the crocodile(s); it was a few people raising the alarm. The crocodile was removed for its safety and now at a facility, and likely will never be re-released even though it was NOT a problematic animal. This is why education is so important so animals do not suffer due to false beliefs or opinions. Educational outreach is the best conservation effort, so we are teaming up with The Belize Zoo, and the Belize Raptor Center amongst various other conservation partners in-country to conduct an outreach event in Belize City to further educate the public and empower communities with the knowledge to co-exist with wildlife, and to further squash any false beliefs about apex predators in general. Stayed tuned for the time and location of this event!

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Sleep is for the wicked… right after Belize City the CRC headed to Caye Caulker to meet up with our Next Gen Croc students for their monthly Nocturnal Eyeshine Surveys of the island. Everything went well, with the students aiding in the data collection of a 2.1 meter American Crocodile. Sadly, we received some bad news shortly after our departure from Caye Caulker. A 1.1 meter  American Crocodile had been found decapitated. It is possible this was out of retaliation of an attack (that is tied to direct feeding of crocodiles), an act of poaching, or simply animal abuse.  This is once again a reason to push educational outreach. Caye Caulker has been a model community for co-existing with crocodiles and we hope that is continues to show the rest of Belize coexistence is possible.

Cannibalistic crocodiles were also on our mind as the CRC founders led an expedition into Chiquibul Forest to investigate some peculiar behavior seen on their last visit to Chiquibul, and to conduct population surveys of Crocodylus moreletii as part of the annual collaborative surveys with Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD). Colleague Shawn Heflick from Croc U joined the adventure as he had been one of the original people to observe this behavior with us. Also joining us was a film crew, documenting our research adventures, particularly interested in the cannibal crocs of Chiquibul Forest. Stay tuned for future announcements of a possible TV premiere!

And as March comes to an end we are still not finished! We started the last week of the month participating in a workshop to finalize the National Wildlife Awareness Strategy that will hopefully lead Belize into a better future for not only wildlife but also communities. Thank you to all those who participated in this workshop. Last but not least on our list is…. You guessed it, more outreach! On our final day of this busy March we were asked to be a part of Earth Day at Peninsula International Academy in Placencia! The Earth Day event went amazingly and we passed out some of our new swag along with croc knowledge! As always we are looking forward to even busier times as we get closer to summer!

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Morelet’s crocodile Photo by Joseph Robertia