This snippet of A Load of Croc is written by CRC’s Research Biologist Jonathan Triminio.
On Thursday, January 23, Research Biologist Jonathan Triminio led a series of surveys with CRC volunteers Brandon, Sara, and University of Belize student Tessa along the New River as part of our ongoing New River Monitoring Project (https://crocodileresearchcoalition.org/save-the-new-river/). These surveys are performed every 4-6 weeks to gather data on relative density and to obtain tissue samples for eco-toxicology studies. The goal is to determine the cause of mortality and morbidity of Morelet’s Crocodile in the New River Watershed and to propose conservation strategies to assist other key stakeholders save the New River.
Two types of surveys are carried out in this project, Nocturnal Eyeshine Survey (NES) and Mark and Recapture Surveys (MRS). Generally, NES would be conducted before a MRS as the vocalization of the crocodiles at the moment of capture would alert nearby counterparts potentially altering encounter rates. However, on this night, the team conducted both surveys simultaneously. Nearing Orange Walk Town, the research team came across a 1.6 m crocodile in open water at 01:05h. As most adult crocodiles would be wary and would normally flee the scene, this one seemed to want to be a candidate for our data collection. The crocodile was swiftly captured with the use of our snare pole and brought aboard safely. After recording morphometric data and observing its extremities, it was brought to Jonathan’s attention that this specimen was a recapture! His excitement peaked as it was the first recapture in his career. After collecting all necessary data, the crocodile was released back at the site of capture and was seen swimming gracefully away from the boat. Referring back to the data spreadsheet, this adult male was initially captured back in May 2019, and this male had only grown 2 inches in total length over the past 8 months. The extensive fish kill and overall degradation of the river that occurred in the midst of 2019 has presumably contributed to the shortage of food in this area of the New River, possibly effecting the growth rate of the crocs in the area as growth in crocodilians parallels the state of the environment. Nevertheless, the crocodile appeared to be in good conditions with no sign of human or intra-specific conflicts. Additionally, this male was found only 0.87 km away from his initial capture site in May.
This is CRC’s third recapture for the New River Watershed and by staying consistent with the monitoring project we hope to recapture more crocodiles as it will give us important information of individual’s health, home range and how they utilize their immediate resources, in addition, to further understanding the species natural history and ecology.