BELIZE NATIONWIDE MORELET’S CROCODILE POPULATION SURVEY
The last thorough survey of Crocodylus moreletii (Morelet’s crocodile) in Belize was conducted in the mid-1990s, suggesting that the Morelet’s crocodile had recovered from past exploitation,
contributing to the general conservation status as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. However, since the mid-1990s there has been scattered data on the population status of the species, and knowledge of the current national population is data deficient. By request of the Belize Forest Department (FD), the Crocodile Research Coalition initiated a nationwide population survey of the Morelet’s crocodile in December 2016 to determine the population size and demographics of the species, in addition to assessing current and future threats that may have a negative impact on population stability and survival. The data collected from this survey is intended to assist FD in implementing the most appropriate management plan to ensure the conservation of the species, while at the same time mitigating human-crocodile conflict.
This survey follows the methods as presented at the 2010 Morelet’s crocodile tri-country meeting in which Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico agreed in conducting countrywide surveys to eventually foster a transborder collaborative effort in regional conservation and management of the species. This project includes 5 parts:
- Habitat Monitoring
- Nocturnal Eyeshine Survey
- Capture and Mark Survey
- Nest Survey
- (and added by the CRC) Community Outreach: in all locations surveyed, the CRC takes time to mingle with communities and lead educational outreach events to provide education and awareness to those living alongside crocodiles, in addition to receiving data for a crocodile perception community survey. This survey is to educate us in demographic perspective of crocodiles so that we may create an educational program that is effective.
The Morelet’s crocodile countrywide population survey is a collaboration amongst various organizations, which includes training in conducting basic crocodile population surveys in the anticipation that an annual monitoring program can be established in various locations led by these organizations in Belize to help monitor the species. Our partners are as follows:
Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD)
Belize Wildlife Referral and Clinic (BWRC)
Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD)
Forest Department (FD)
Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE)
Programmer for Belize (PfB)
The Belize Zoo (TBZ)
Southern Environmental Association (SEA)
Conservation, Food and Health Foundation
The countrywide Morelet’s crocodile population survey officially ended December 31, 2018. Genetic analysis of tissue samples collected from each individual captured is currently being analyzed by graduate students in the United States and the United Kingdom, and tissue samples for heavy metal analysis will be analyzed in late 2019 in Belgium.
Right before hosting the IUCN/SSC-Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG) Regional Meeting, CRC led a meeting in collaboration with Belize Forest Department amongst key stakeholders from various NGOs such as Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE), Wildlife Conservation Society Belize, Belize Audubon Society, Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development - Belize, and the CSG to discuss the foundation for the 1st Conservation and Management Action Plan for the Morelet’s Crocodile in Belize. This meeting discussed the data from the recent countrywide Morelet’s crocodile population survey in addition to community involvement programs that can benefit species and communities. We look forward to working with The Croc Docs and other partners such as Friends for Conservation and Development - FCD Belize and Programme For Belize as this action plan progresses to further country conservation and management of the species.
This countrywide survey was financially supported by Canada CrocFest, the San Diego Zoo, and the Conservation, Food and Health Foundation.