Even though the world is coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, the CRC has been busy with animal rescues, croc calls and snorkelling clean ups. Before COVID-19, the CRC would normally be doing outreach for World Crocodile Day. Instead, due to government restrictions, the CRC celebrated it with a crocodile rescue, taking a 1.2m American-hybrid croc known as JimJamJay (the 7-year-old that named him said we could just call him Jim) to his new home.
With the heavy rains, crocs are on the move and Jim was found in a ditch in Belize City and seemed not able to get out. Although afraid of crocs, a woman called the CRC to pick up Jim instead of any harm coming to the small croc. After picking up Jim and thanking this local Wildlife Champion, Jim travelled with the CRC to southern Belize. While fighting off the flood flies, we took the necessary data and gave Jim a quick health examination before releasing him into the Placencia Lagoon where there is still a lot of prime croc real estate.
The rescues didn’t stop there! The CRC released 2 Furrowed Wood Turtles back to nature. Shelly (the smallest) was found in Punta Placencia and being kept as a pet by a mother and daughter. However, they realized Shelly would have a better life amongst other turtles in the wild and asked if we could release her on our land. The larger turtle, Mr. Turtle Sweetie Pie, was rescued by a woman who saw boys throwing it into the ocean like a rock. Luckily to our local Wildlife Champions, these turtles are getting a great second chance back in nature.
After the turtle rescues, Dr. Tellez rescued a boa constrictor off the sidewalk in front of the grocery store in Seine Bight Village, safely releasing it in a safe spot. Then, after one of the local weekly snorkelling beach clean-ups we were participating in, a wildlife champion called us about an injured pelican in Seine Bight. She stated: “it’s a small bird with a broken wing “(indeed it was a bird but not small!). With the help of other Wildlife Champions, we drove the pelican up to Dr. Mia, a vet at Stann Creek Animal Hospital, so that the it could be transferred to Belize Bird Rescue and receive proper care.
The Illegal Wildlife Trade continues even with Covid-19
Over the past few months, the CRC has intervened in several cases of the illegal wildlife the pet trade: coatimundi, parrots, turtles, and crocodile hatchlings. Wildlife trafficking is a growing global threat. It’s hatchling season of the American crocodile and CRC has conducted nest surveys around the Placencia Lagoon. After heavy rainfall over the past few weeks, a few American Crocodile nesting sites appeared to have been destroyed by a substantial increase in water levels. However, we encountered two nests in which neonates had hatched within the last week. Oddly, we did not encounter any hatchlings after a thorough search of the habitat, which was a red flag as last year we came across a similar situation- freshly hatched eggs but no babies. Speaking to residents from nearby communities, we learned that hatchlings from those nests were in fact poached and are currently being sold as pets in surrounding localities, and even across the border.
Years of this pattern can greatly undermine the conservation efforts for the Critically Endangered American crocodile in Belize, especially since Placencia Lagoon is one of the last prime remaining habitats in-country for this species. Crocodiles are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act; therefore, it is illegal to hunt or poach them. And as we saw with our 1st Crocodile Ambassador Rick, many people do not understand the husbandry or care to keep healthy animals which leads to poor, unhealthy short lives. Moreover, keeping a croc as a pet can habituate them to humans making them a danger to you and the community if they are released back into the wild as habituated crocodiles are more likely to attack; additionally, habituated crocodiles are more likely to be illegally hunted.
You can become a wildlife champion in many different ways: give wildlife their space, do not harass or touch any animals you may see (just take pictures!), be careful when driving to avoid any collisions with wildlife, educate family and friends about treating animals with respect.
Next Gen Croc Student Gets a Taste of Wildlife Rehabilitation
Our Next Gen Croc youth wildlife program provides opportunities to young, enthusiastic local environmental leaders to experience and build a foundation in scientific research and the wonderful world of crocodile conservation. Our student Erica has found a love and passion for wildlife rehab, helping the CRC tremendously in regards to injured birds along the Placencia peninsula. To build her knowledge and confidence in caring for injured birds, Belize Bird Rescue (BBR) opened up their doors to this young wildlife lover, and allowed Erica (supervised by Dr. Tellez) to conduct a 2-day training. Erica reignited and confirmed her passion for wildlife rehabilitation, learning from Co-founder and Director Nikki Buxton in various aspects of avian rehabilitation, such as preparing food and feeding birds that may need assistance, as well as tending to injured birds.
Erica is looking forward to returning to BBR in a few months to further her training and foundation in wildlife rehabilitation. The CRC would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to BBR for Erica’s training, and a BIG THANK YOU to Gil Rotstein who sponsored this trip, and continues to support CRC’s Next Gen Croc program.
BBR (NGO) is Belize’s only multi-species avian rescue and rehabilitation centre established in 2004. With their motto “Let them fly free,” BBR has had a positive and tremendous impact in decreasing the local (and to an extent international) pet trade of parrots through education, as well as rehabilitating injured or captive parrots. For more information to learn about this wonderful organization, please head to https://www.belizebirdrescue.com/.
As quarantine restrictions lift in Belize, CRC is embracing the last few calm days before the storm, research reason! Needless to say there will be a load of croc come July!