Prior to suspending research and outreach, and prepping the team for the months ahead in regards to the coronavirus, CRC had a normal month of research, outreach, and rescues in March.
The first 2 weeks CRC was busy prepping for our participation in Reef Week. Reef Week is a yearly event done to raise awareness on coral reefs and marine species that depend on healthy reefs for a healthy living. On Friday March 13th, various organizations from around the country gathered in Placencia to provide a day of awareness, filled with music, art, green vendors, food and information booths with many interactive games to engage students about the importance of coral reefs. You may be wondering why CRC participated in this event (crocs and reef? Well, the American crocodile has been sighted near coral before…). Our focus wasn’t necessarily reef, but mangroves and how mangroves contribute to a healthy reef.
There are many reasons why mangroves are vital to the ecosystem and coral reefs. For one, mangroves act as Mother Nature’s filter, purifying the water from pollutants, and organic and inorganic nitrate and phosphate, By sequestering nitrate and phosphate, this helps protect coral reefs from bleaching or dying (as too much can cause their death). Secondly, mangroves act to trap sediments that would otherwise be washed out to sea, and possibly covering or damaging coral reefs. Finally, mangroves are the home and nursery for of wildlife, some as adults that live in the coral reef. The CRC taught about the importance of mangroves through various games and displays- students were excited to get their hands dirty and wet in learning about the importance of mangroves!
Reef Week ended with a special day for our Next Gen Croc Seine Bight Kids. The team from BFREE (Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education) discussed Bird Migration Day and Hicatees, and the importance of protecting these critically endangered turtles (given most animals are connected to one’s culture, the extinction of an animal is a small piece lost in one’s culture). After the interesting facts and game played with kids on birds, Jamal Andrewin the Educational Outreach Coordinator from MarAlliance made a big splash with the virtual reality headsets, where kids got to dive in and learn about the wonderful world of sharks. Each kid was given the opportunity to dive in and look at Hammerhead sharks, turtles and lots of fish. They also learned the Do’s and Don’ts when you see a shark and the different species that we have here in Belize.
After the learning and the games played, we headed out for a beach clean-up, where the kids picked up five bags of garbage, which included a lot of small particles like bottle covers, pieces of foamy materials and some straws. Jamal also brought prices for the winning teams who picked the most plastic and they were just so motivated in the entire process of learning and cleaning which leads me to say “To make a change, you get involve.” (check out this video about this special day! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpwoONxx77Q)
And although the beginning of the month was quiet in regards to wildlife rescues, mid-March was busy as CRC received a call to rescue a sick croc in New River Belize, as well as rescue an agouti that someone found in addition save an opossum that was attacked by dogs within 24hrs! The team split in half to handle the wildlife rescues, and luckily Research Biologist Jonathan Triminio stayed up north as after the 1st croc rescue, he received 2 more croc calls within 2 days. Luckily these crocs weren’t injured, but just got lost on their way from savannah to more permanent water bodies.
And we had to say good-bye to one of our rehab crocs Triminio. Originally rescued from Corozal Bay in December, he was illustrating signs of suffering from a bacterial infection. Although he showed improvement, further examination illustrated the antibiotics were not helping. We sent Triminio to the big croc pond in the sky to end his pain. Cause of death? Likely a heavy parasite load in the lungs that caused secondary infection (bacterial and fungal). Further bacterial and histology analysis will fine tune cause of death, but these lung parasites are known to be deadly in crocs. On the positive, his death was likely not caused by man, but natural.
As most NGOs (and the rest of the world!), the CRC is not sure what the next few months will bring, but we will be using this time to re-organize, continue to care for our CRC Croc Ambassadors, and assist in wildlife rescues when they come. If you are interested in learning more on how you can sink your teeth into conservation during these times of quarantine, check out: https://crocodileresearchcoalition.org/wildlife-triage-rehabilitation/