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New River Pollution Killing Crocs

September 01
13:30 2019

Sunday, September 1st. 2019 –

The issue of pollution in the New River, particularly in the Orange Walk District, has gained the national spotlight in recent weeks, culminating with a recent media tour highlighting the effects of pollution on the river and its eco-system, however, new data from the Crocodile Research Coalition (CRC) suggests that the pollution is having a detrimental effect on one of the Earth’s oldest and most resilient predators, the crocodile.

Dr. Marisa Tellez, CRC co-founder, recently shared that the CRC came across the data as part of its ongoing efforts in collaboration with the government to conduct a national survey on crocodile populations in Belize. The survey is meant to guide policy on conservation and a management action plan to mitigate contact between humans and crocs. The data from the crocs in the New River, however, indicate dire conditions for the predators in the water there.

According to Tellez, the crocodiles observed along the New River, especially in Orange Walk, were highly lethargic and in some instances their skin was peeling off and had a whitish-bluish tone. She also said researchers found many young crocodiles with no teeth. Some crocodiles in the area died and during the necropsy examinations, several of their organs disintegrated, illustrating that they were slowly dying for months. Tellez said after sharing the results with international colleagues, the experts agree that this has most likely been caused by long-term exposure to stress or pollution. She added that during one necropsy, a crocodile’s kidneys just dissolved and other organs were severely deteriorated.

Tellez said she has observed the same phenomenon in South Africa, the Cayman Islands, Brazil and even before in Belize, in the San Mateo area of Ambergris Caye where garbage dumping had caused exposure to pollutants in the water around the island.  She added that the crocs on Ambergris caye exhibited a lot of the same symptoms but not as bad as the crocs in the New River. “Crocodiles are at the top of the food chain so they bio-accumulate. They’re fantastic red flags in regards to what’s going on in the environment,” Tellez said.

She said that the majority of crocs exhibiting these symptoms were observed in close proximity to BSI’s effluent. “I’m very concerned about the communities, not just for their health but economically as well,” she added.

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