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Wednesday
Feb072018

Crocodiles of the North  Island

Although there are freshwater species of Crocodile residing in Belize, The American or Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is the most common species of Crocodile that can be found in its surrounding Cayes and Mangrove communities. They hide in the shallow waters of once undisturbed islands edging their way to the mainland, though they have been known to cross neighbouring waters of their Australian cousins in search for food. Crocodiles are highly territorial, making their proximity with humans one that could be both a threat to their sustenance and an asset. They have been known to travel as far as one hundred and fifty metres to each territory when their own becomes threatened or scarcely populated, making their nomadic habits unpredictable to track.

While there have been few documented cases of Crocodile attacks on this side of Central America, with both the planned expansion of property and an insouciant attitude with feeding, one could expect this to change. Tour guides and local fishermen often approach the matter of Crocodiles with an attitude lending well into their own interests than that of the consequences, one to cultivate a potentially volatile outcome. On the flipside there have been cases of larger adults visit neighbouring docks of Caye Caulker without succumbing to their meat-eating disposition, though their new intrigue should not always be labelled nonchalantly.

Due to over-exploited populations of the Morelet's crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) in the earlier 20th Century, Crocodile densities in the Northern river systems of Belize came to a prompt decline, urging the reintroduction of juvenile species to areas most affected. The Saltwater Crocodiles may not share the same concern as the once listed endangered species of mainland Belize, but their tendency to settle in alluvial waters could make future weather extremes problematic. Most of the crocs sighted during a survey conducted by Placencia based NGO CRC (Crocodile Research Coalition) were juveniles, whether this could reflect a rigorous pursuit of larger adults or their ability to remain undetected is hard to say.

I spoke briefly to the co-ordinator, Miriam, who kindly invited me onto the night survey alongside local school students, in which she faiths the success of Crocodile conservation firmly on education. It was clear to see that there was plenty of retained knowledge amongst a staggered age range of students, a knowledge to which expanded my own awareness of these prehistorical beasts. One detail that did spark further interest with further wellbeing of these animals is their enriched resonance with Mayan culture and their symbolism with the expansion of consciousness.

By Jake Darcy - Belize Journalism Volunteer

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