Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Letter to the Editor: Caye Caulker Croc Concern


Dear San Pedro Sun Editor,
Although an article published in The San Pedro Sun on January, 21, 2017 titled “Caye Caulker is a model for how to co-exist with crocodiles,” suggests that man and crocodile are living in harmony on La Isla Cariñosa, the sad fact of the matter is that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Since the release of this article, the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES) has been contacted numerous times by several residents of Caye Caulker, who which to remain anonymous, with reports of dead crocs; people feeding the crocs, not just chickens or scraps, but unwanted puppies too; people setting baited hooks to catch them, kill them, and sell the meat; kids stoning and killing hatchlings and young crocs; and, there was even a report of kids with a small croc, appearing dead, on a rope swinging it in circles above their heads which was witnessed by a tourist. Not quite the model for “how to co-exist with crocodiles” that ACES supports; and, definitely not the model other researchers led the public to believe exists in the said article.
Recently Chris Summers, ACES Daily Operations Manager and crocodile conservationist, traveled to Caye Caulker to investigate crocs that reportedly have been targeted by poachers who are regularly setting baited hooks in attempt to illegally capture them. It would appear that prior to ACES’s arrival, highly inexperienced and un-permitted individuals had been to the location, unsuccessfully attempting to catch the targeted crocs by chasing them around in a canoe; thus, making ACES job of protecting these animals all the more difficult. One six-foot female American crocodile was relocated to a northern lagoon for her own protection. “Shelia” was not a nuisance or problematic animal and did not pose any threat to people. But, people were a threat to her and hence she was captured, microchipped #7E10194919, and relocated. An effort which was supported by La Fondation Brigitte Bardot, France. Her place of relocation is not being divulged to the public for her own protection. A larger male is still being targeted by poachers, and ACES intends to return to relocate him also, hopefully before his life is lost and he becomes a statistic.
“Sugar coating” the current Caye Caulker Croc situation, especially when it comes to senseless non-sequential killings that are unnecessarily violent and cruel, is not teaching communities how to safely coexist with these magnificent animals. The truth needs to be told and people need to start being held accountable for their actions. ACES predicted to the Belize Forest Department (BFD) that Belize would most likely witness an increase in croc-human conflicts due to too lenient scientific research permits allowing unspecified and untrained individuals to randomly capture crocodiles across the country in the name of research. Regrettably correct, ACES reports that as of today, August 10, 2017, the total number of reported crocodiles killed by man country-wide has now risen to ten (10) crocodiles, three of which were on Caye Caulker. And this does not reflect unreported croc deaths due to man. With this year just over half way through, the number of reported man-related-crocodile-deaths is close to the total killed in all of 2015 and 2016 combined, which was only ten (10) crocodiles. Thankfully the BFD has recently made revisions and added restrictions to crocodile scientific research permits.
Based upon the numerous ongoing reports given to ACES by Caye Caulker residents and tourists, the truth is that the lack of enforcement results in the illegal killing of crocodiles on a regular basis. People are feeding them chicken or unwanted puppies “because it’s entertaining to feed them” one local stated, and then killing them because the crocs are becoming “friendlier;” hence, moving closer to people after being fed. One Caye Caulker resident confidentially commented, “The adults always end up shot and the babies end up with a string around their snout or neck and spun until they die.”
It is only by working together that we can save Belize’s species for future generations. Anyone with any crocodile concerns or cares please call ACES at 623-7920 or email [email protected] and ACES will respond. Illegal crocodile activities should be immediately reported to the Belize Forest Department or local authorities, and can be done so anonymously. Currently, ACES is the Belize Government’s only private crocodile rescue and research organization operating under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Belize Forest Department for crocodile conservation. Other in country croc researchers carry scientific research permits only and do not have authority to respond to crocodile concerns. Your Help Will Take a Bite Out of Extinction!
Cherie Chenot-Rose
Research Biologist & Co-founder
American Crocodile Education Sanctuary

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