Letters — 18 November 2017
Why the crocodile let go …

Dear Editor,

My name is Dr. Marisa Tellez and I am the Founding Director of the Crocodile Research Coalition recently established in Placencia (Jan 2016), and the IUCN/SSC-Crocodile Specialist Group’s Vice Regional Chair for Latin America (www.iucncsg.org).

I read your article about the recent crocodile attack and wanted to clarify a fact – there are 24 species of crocodiles in the world, and there are 2 in Belize:  the Morelet’s crocodile and the American crocodile.  The American crocodile inhabits the cayes and the coast, and the Morelet’s crocodile inhabits rivers and lakes.

The crocodile that likely attacked the man is a Morelet’s crocodile given the habitat, and this species in Belize gets to be about 9 feet.  Additionally, the CRC is currently leading the countrywide Morelet’s crocodile population survey and we surveyed this area prior so I am confident to say this was an attack by a Morelet’s crocodile.  By looking at the bite, it was smaller than 7ft.

Other information I received about the attack would suggest this attack was “accidental” in the sense the animal confused the man for another source of prey, which does happen (even with sharks). Thus why the croc let go.

The crocodiles in Belize are relatively timid and shy as long as they are not fed, harassed, or handled (such as in tours), as that is when they lose their fear in humans. There is a lot of false information and misguided beliefs about the crocs in Belize (and internationally), yet there is a cohort of scientists, organizations, governments and community members internationally who are trying to empower people with the knowledge of co-existence for ecological, economic and cultural reasons.

I’m more than happy to provide you with any more information, as well as put you in touch with some of the world’s leading experts wildlife conservation, as well as mitigating human-wildlife conflict. Additionally, I’d be happy to discuss some of the research, educational and management progress the CRC has made in assisting the government in monitoring crocodile numbers to implement an action plan to ensure the safety of local communities.

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Deshawn Swasey

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