By MArion V. Ali
The Easter holidays are upon us and many people are planning to spend the long weekend with family and or friends.
The traditional Easter-time activities include at great deal of swimming and fishing in one of the many river, ponds, or lagoons across the country.
But while those activities often bring with it a level of relaxation, it also comes with its own risks, including the unfortunate crocodile attacks that occurred this month.
One of those relatively unusual attacks left one man, 47-year-old Carlos Michael Diaz, dead. He was attacked as he fished in a pond.
Thankfully, the second reported crocodile attack did not end in a fatality, but it did leave a man and a minor injured.
Crocodile expert, Vince Rose, explained that most of the time such horrific encounters with killer crocs can be avoided if people only knew what to do.
For instance, he condemned the practice of feeding crocodiles, saying that its this type of action that attracts the beasts.
Once they are fed and lose their fear of humans, Rose says, they will attack, and most of the time, it is with deadly precision.
One of their favourite appetizers is fish scraps which people who fish often throw back into the water from the boat after cleaning their catch. People who habitually feed the animals also stand a great chance of getting attacked as well because these animals study movements. Rose adds that by nature, crocodiles will avoid the human element, unless otherwise provoked or tempted.
People who bathe or swim attract these beasts by splashing about as well, he said.
“When you’re in the water, he sees only your head and splashing hands. When you’re on land, he doesn’t necessarily want to come out.” And perhaps the most important “don’t” to practice is to never bathe or swim at dusk or at dawn when the animal is most active.
There are two types of crocodiles that inhabit our waterways: the Saltwater American Croc and the Freshwater Morelet.
The crocodile that killed on Monday, April 7, was an adult, male, fresh water Morelet measuring 11 feet 6 inches, weighing 550 pounds and estimated to be between 45 and 55 years of age. It was missing 1 1/2 feet of its tail and according to Crocodile expert, Vincent Rose, the injury/wound was at least two years old because of the observations he made on the scarred tissue.
Rose euthanized the beast by shooting it twice in the back of the skull, a process that he assures last only seconds before the animal was dead. It was then burnt and buried.
While there have been two crocodile attacks of late, interestingly, the crocodile population is on a decline in Belize.
While in 2005 there were between 5,000 to 10,000 crocodiles in Belize, those numbers have dwindled now to just around 1,000. That is because people poach them for their teeth, to use it as jewelry. Others seek out their tail as a delicacy.
To top that off, children who kill baby crocodiles help to eliminate the number of these reptiles.
Rose added, “It takes two pairs of mating crocodiles to produce one offspring that will make it to adulthood. Essentially, out of a batch of eggs that number up to 60 that a female lays, none will survive to reach adulthood.” And only one will survive out of a second set of 60 eggs. These magnificent, prehistoric creatures date back 300 million years when dinosaurs occupied the earth. They have been able to survive through the ages and two of their outstanding features are that they continue to grow for their entire lives, spanning up to 80 years in some cases.
The crocodiles on display at the Belize Zoo are among the deadliest ones in Belize, for the simple fact that landed them there in the first place – people used to feed them and they have lost all fear of humans.
These are not animals that people can train, said Rose, so to possess, feed, torture, kill or even touch one, regardless of its size, is an offense punishable by law.
While people will go to the waterholes for various reasons this Easter, Rose advises that you can avoid getting attacked.
He advises people to scan the area, if possible the night before taking the family for a swim.
In the event you do come face to face with one of the world’s oldest species, the best advice Rose gives is to calmly walk away from the animal, but never take your eyes off him when doing so.