After an injured crocodile was caught and helped when it wandered into the San Juan area, local police officers living in Belize have received training from the American Crocodile Educational Sanctuary (ACES) and the Belize Forest Department (BFD). Â On Wednesday September 18th, the two organizations offered a joint presentation to the San Pedro police force on how to handle these snappy creatures and ensure the animals are protected.
ACES has offered invaluable assistance to the BFD for years, helping to capture and relocate crocodiles across the country.Â Dealing with crocodiles can be a common issue for those living in Belize, so itÂs important for officials to understand the fundamentals of handling them. Â With ACES having now arrived on Ambergris Caye, theyÂre wasting no time in helping the local police force come to terms with how to deal with problematic crocodiles.
Starting the talk, the BFDÂs Mrs. Rasheda Garcia spoke to police officers about the BFDÂs work, which includes mangrove clearance, issuing hunting permits, protecting wildlife areas and handling conflicts between humans and wildlife. Â ACESÂ Cherie Chenot-Rose followed the BFD talk, revealing how Ambergris Caye has a decreasing crocodile population, with numbers dropping from 5,000 crocodiles in 2005 to around 1,000. Â Ms Chenot-Rose talked about the problems of feeding and poaching crocodiles, and whilst the latter is illegal, it still occurs in great numbers.
Crocodile attacks on Ambergris Caye are rare, but many of the creatures are becoming more common on land as they move into residential areas to feed on rats and raccoons which, in turn, have been attracted by garbage. Â This can be worrying for locals, and there have been several reports of pets and stray dogs falling victim to crocodiles.
In the evening, the ACES team took several BFD and police officers out into the field to provide them with hands-on training for crocodile handling. Â Stationing themselves at the San Mateo ACES holding facility, individuals were shown how to handle the aggressive reptiles by animal behaviorist and croc wrangler, Vince Rose. Â The police officers were offered the chance to try wrangling for themselves and were then taken out onto the lagoon to spot crocodiles in their natural environment.
Though the training has only just started, itÂs hoped that residents of Ambergris Caye will feel safer knowing that local officials have had training in how to deal with American crocodiles.