Tragic death caused by crocodile

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 37            September 20, 2007

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Wilber Blanco was a 23-year old waiter at Caliente, and a father of one.

Wilber was attending the annual Pirate Party with friends the last night he was seen alive.

The area where Wilber’s body was found is known for having a resident crocodile pictured above.

This notice was published in a previous issue of The San Pedro Sun. It is extremely important that residents take caution and understand the importance of symbiosis with these animals.

The early hours of September 16th still remain a mystery to police officers of the San Pedro Police Department. Events of that night, and the previous months, culminated in the death of Wilber Alexander Blanco. And, as of press time, questions are still in the air, questions that the family and friends need answered. However, the mystery remains, how did Wilber, who lives in the DFC Subdivision end up in the San Pedrito Area, far from home?

    Around 9:30 a.m., based on information received, San Pedro police officers visited the San Pedrito Area where on arrival they saw the apparent lifeless body of a male person floating face up in the nearby lagoon. Police report that a crocodile was seen close to the body and the animal was very protective of it. Officers chased the croc away and were able to retrieve the body from the water. Upon closer inspection, officers saw that the body was missing its two arms, from the shoulder down. The body was transported to the San Pedro Police Department where it was positively identified as Wilber Alexander Blanco, 23-year-old waiter of Caliente Restaurant of the beachfront area. The Blanco family transported the body to Belize City via a boat to be taken to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital where it awaited a post mortem examination.

    The rumor mill in San Pedro Town churned and the last hours that Wilber was seen alive came under scrutiny. Along with co-workers, he attended the annual Pier Lounge Pirate Party where, upon drinking many rum and cokes, Wilber became intoxicated. Shortly after the announcement of the winners, he along with friends went to Jaguar’s Temple Night Club. After one drink, Wilber was placed in a cab to be taken home. That was the last time he was seen alive.

    Rosalinda Garcia, mother of the deceased, became worried as dawn approached and her son had still not arrived home. Because she does not speak English, she asked her son-in-law to call the police department and ask if Wilber was in police custody, since she feared that because of the party he had gotten into trouble. Police officers instructed her and the deceased’s wife to visit the station where they were informed of her son’s untimely death.

The postmortem examination

    In Belize, Dr. Mario Estradaban conducted a post mortem examination on the body on Tuesday, September 19th, which certified the cause of death to be exsanguination traumatic amputation of the upper limbs due to crocodile syndrome. In a telephone interview with Estradaban, The San Pedro Sun discovered that the body, aside from having its arms missing, presented multiple (as in more than three) wounds which he related to the crocodile’s tail lashing the body.

    However, the family is not pleased with the way that Dr. Estradaban broke the news. “It was very unprofessional; he came out with a smirk on his face asking me, ‘why was this boy playing with the crocodiles?’ I reacted the way any grieving mother would. It was a very painful experience,” commented Garcia. When questioned about his professionalism in The Sun’s interview, Estradaban stated that if the family was not pleased with his findings that they could chose to bring in an alternate forensic/autopsy doctor who would find the cause of death to be the same. “As a mother I just want to know what happened to my son,” said Garcia.

The family’s concerns

    The Blanco family strongly suspects foul play in Wilber’s death. “People say that they heard him screaming for help. Others say that they saw two men beating up someone in that area. We just want to know what happened,” ended Garcia. Police investigations continue into the incident and are presently looking for the driver of the taxi that was to take Wilber home. However, people who say that they were witness to the two men beating up someone in the San Pedrito Area are asked to come forward. “If witnesses do not come and talk to us we can not follow any leads. We will not leave any stone uncovered, we will do our best to find out what exactly happened,” ended Sergeant Dennis Myles, investigating officer. Wilber’s body was laid to rest on Tuesday, September 18th, 2007 at 10:00 a.m. He was the father of a one year old child.

Crocodiles

    The body of Wilber was found in a lagoon which is land locked. Residents of the area have seen the animal traveling over land to other water bodies in the area. Close to the section of the lagoon where the body was found is adjacent to an illegal dump site. Biologist Cherie Chenot-Rose, Executive Director for the American Crocodile Endangered Sanctuary located in Punta Gorda, Toledo shed some light in crocodile characteristics and behavior.

    “American Crocodiles, Crocodylus acutus, found on San Pedro are not alligators but crocodiles. Crocodilians are typically more aggressive than alligators but attacks on humans are rare. Their long slender snout is more adapted to feeding on fish, with mullet being a major staple in their diet, rather than mammals.

    They are, however, an opportunistic feeder, this why it is so important for the public to remember to properly depose of food products, especially fish and chicken. Crocodiles can attack smaller mammals, mainly water birds. They are typically nocturnal ambush feeders and when stalking prey for food will float beneath the surface of the water with only their eyes and nostrils visible while waiting for the prey to approach. The attack is lightening quick, as the crocodile snatches its prey and normally drags it into the water and drowns it. The infamous “death roll” is believed to be used to not only to drown the prey but to twist the prey apart. The croc then crunches the bones to soften the prey if needed and swallows.

    If the prey is too large to consume, the crocodile will hide the carcass and let it rot in order to soften the tissue, so that ripping it apart is easier. Fortunately, most American Crocodile attacks inflicted on humans are by females protecting their nest/hatchlings or defending territory and are not fatal. Unlike the Nile Crocodile, Crocodylus niloticus, and the Saltwater Crocodile, Crocodylus porous, the American Crocodiles found in Belize are not “man-eaters” and are considered less aggressive than other Crocodilians.

    Sadly, the truth is Belize’s crocodilian populations are decreasing due to the destruction of major nesting grounds, low hatchling survival rates, and needless killings largely resulting from public unawareness. Nationally we must increase awareness on safely living with Crocodilians and their importance in Belize’s ecosystem,” she stated. Forestry Department strongly urges the public to be careful when handling crocodiles and to please be cautious when approaching a croc. Never, under any circumstances, should they be fed.



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