June 2019- it will go down in history as the CRC’s busiest month in regards to scientific meetings. Three meetings within 10 days- YES!!! Three meetings within 10 days! (and if you include the National Resources meeting we attended in Belmopan, 4 conferences in 1 month!)
International Herpetological Society (IHS)
In 2017 while attending the IHS meeting in New Mexico, USA as one of the scientific presenters, Dr. Marisa Tellez was asked if CRC could be the boots on the ground for the IHS meeting that was planned for 2019 in Belize. Dr. Tellez messaged Sharon Matola, Founder of The Belize Zoo to discuss further collaboration to assist in arrangements, etc. Move forward to June 2019 and the CRC is hosting over 100 participants from the IHS organization in Belize. What was special about this meeting is one of the board members from IHS donated money to assist in travel, accommodation, and registration of 10 young, enthusiastic Belizean herpetologists to attend the meeting. Young Belizean conservationists from Stann Creek and Belize District participated in the meeting giving presentations on turtles, frogs, snakes and crocs of Belize. Three of the young students
were part of the CRC’s Next Gen Croc, in addition to our 2018 University of Belize Scholar Jonathan Triminio presenting data on the Countrywide Morelet’s Crocodile Population Survey given he participated in the research. The young Belizean participants met peers from the US, networking with various herp and croc-loving enthusiasts and we hope this meeting had a positive influence on these young Belizean conservationists and we look forward to seeing them all grow in their field of passion.
Nationwide Morelet’s Crocodile Population Survey Conservation and Management Action Plan Meeting
In 2010, a tri-country meeting between Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico was conducted to discuss regional collaboration and management of the Morelet’s crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii). At that point, Mexico was about to initiate their “countrywide” survey, however Belize did not have the financial resources at that time. In 2014, Dr. Tellez was approached by Belize Forest Department to lead a countrywide Morelet’s croc population survey given the last survey was conducted in the mid-1990s. The next 2 years Dr. Tellez, and soon CRC, gathered funding to assist Forest Department with their goal in conducting a countrywide survey of the Morelet’s crocodile in Belize. On June 25, 2019, CRC led in collaboration with Forest Department a Conservation and Management Action Plan meeting amongst key stakeholders that included co-managers and NGOs who participated in the Morelet’s croc survey. Dr. Tellez provided a presentation on the data collected over the 2 year survey, highlighting croc hotspot locations that are warranted for protection in addition how to further promote CrocWise attitude amongst communities to further mitigate human-crocodile conflict. This meeting was to establish a foundation of information and guidance on how to move forward in ensuring the survival of the species as climate change and development ensues.
IUCN/SSC-Crocodile Specialist Group Regional Meeting, Placencia
At the CSG’s 24th Working Meeting held in Skukuza, South Africa (2016), and 25 th WorkingMeeting in Santa Fe, Argentina (2018), Latin America and the Caribbean was recognised as a priority area with regard to crocodile conservation, particularly given the lack of available information and threats associated with habitat loss.
There is an urgent need to identify local wildlife champions who can lead crocodile research and management in the sub-region, and help to build a robust network of stakeholders to ensure regional conservation of crocodilians and their habitat.
The theme for the CSG’s sub-regional meeting is “Fostering Regional Conservation through Collaboration”. The meeting aims to bring together and provide networking, collaboration and support opportunities for key stakeholders and experts. The meeting will showcase current knowledge on topics such as crocodilian management (i.e. human-crocodile conflict, scientific research, population survey techniques, habitat monitoring), sustainable use, and policy within the sub-region that will not only be beneficial for regional crocodilian conservation, but also for long-term management of biodiversity within crocodilian habitat.
During the week of June 25-29, 80 participants representing 19 countries participated in the CSG Regional Meeting to discuss country status updates of conservation, management and research issues in the Central America and Caribbean region. The meeting begun with a traditional blessing ceremony by Maya Elders from Toledo District and then officially begun with a Welcome by Chief Wilbur Sabido from Forest Department, welcoming the international delegates. Amongst the various talks, there were four Keynote speakers given by CSG experts in the following themes: regional history of conservation and management (presented by Alvaro Velasco from Venezuela), sustainable use programs (presented by Dr. Pablo Siroski from Argentina), human-crocodile conflict (presented by Juan Bolaños Monterro from Costa Rica), and history of the conservation and management programs of crocodilians in Mexico (presented by Hesiquio Benitez from Mexico). The conference ended with a night of Garifuna drumming from musicians of Seine Bight, followed by a workshop led by Dr. Luis Sigler on Saturday June 29th. Luis is a leading world expert of Morelet’s crocodiles that included a classroom portion that discussed cultural, biological and ecological facts of crocodiles, and ending with a nocturnal eyeshine and capture survey (under the CRC research permit) that included participation by Belize Forest Department officers to further capacity building of trained croc personnel in-country.
The meeting was an overall success and as SubRegional Chair of the IUCN/SSC-Crocodile Specialist Group for Central America and the Caribbean, Dr. Tellez from the CRC feels they have accomplished their goal in regional conservation through collaboration and looks forward furthering conservation and management efforts of crocodiles, their habitat and adjacent wildlife in the country and region while also furthering community involvement.