On July 10, 2020, the CRC responded to the concerns of Belize Sugar Industry (BSI) in Orange Walk District about 2 Morelet’s crocodiles trapped in an old water effluent tank. This tank was 7m x 7m, and at least 7m deep. These crocodiles likely fell into the tanks while dispersing on land as there are no barriers around the tank to prevent animals from falling in.
Thanks to the great idea of our Research Biologist Jonathan, we brought one of our kayaks, which ended up being absolutely necessary if we were to be successful in catching these crocodiles. Upon arrival, we lowered the kayak into the water, and Research Coordinator Jane and CRC co-founder Dr. Tellez climbed down to the kayak via a ladder attached to the tank.
For 45 min we kayaked around this 7m x 7m tank. The crocs were weary, and hadn’t taken the bait traps left in the tank the days prior. Our best bet was to get these crocs used to our presence so that they would allow us to get close enough to catch them… and the plan worked! Dr. Tellez was able to noose the larger croc (1.28m) while kneeling and balancing on the front of the kayak. The croc was restrained, mouth taped, and passed to Program Coordinator Darcy who was waiting at the top of the tank. Unfortunately, we were unable to catch the smaller croc (80cm); given the commotion of the larger croc, the smaller croc likely went into a large and long side pipe to hide. After another 30min of not seeing the smaller croc, it was decided that it was unlikely for the CRC to catch the croc that day. BSI workers and local Forest Department officers discussed they could try to catch the smaller croc in the next few days.
The CRC is about to break ground on our land along the Placencia Lagoon in a week or 2 with rehab enclosures. For now, the 1.28m croc is being held at The Belize Zoo until we can transfer the croc down to our new facility. Prior to releasing this subadult Morelet’s croc now known as PigPen in his temporary enclosure at the zoo (the water he was caught in was, let’s say, not the most pristine, and given the fly situation it reminded us of the Charlie Brown character), he got a nice bath to wipe of some of the grease and oil from the water tank.
Despite having the whitening on skin that we have observed before from crocs in the New River area (https://crocodileresearchcoalition.org/save-the-new-river/), PigPen did not show any other signs of extreme illness. Crocs exposed to pollutants can metabolize out contaminants and can recover quickly simply with clean food and water. So with some basic TLC, PigPen should be back out in the wild doing his croc thing in no time!
We are wishing PigPen all the best in his rehabilitation, and crossing fingers for the rescue of the smaller Morelet’s croc, so stay tuned for some exciting updates!