The croc, which had been in captivity for an estimated three weeks, was literally chained and locked to a nearby coconut tree where it lay in the surf of the Corozal Bay. Surrounded in seaweed and garbage, and eaten by sand fleas, the creature had been tormented for weeks by onlookers who managed to poke both its eyes out, shoot it in the head, pull out most of its teeth and was left to slowly die.
Close to starvation and dehydrated from the lack of fresh water the animal demonstrated little resistance when the team proceed with their rescue. With no key to unlock the chained creature, measures were taken to break open the lock.
On initial examination it was confirmed that the male croc was a freshwater Morelet’s Crocodile. It was speculated that it came from one of the two nearby rivers that empty into the bay. The animal was most likely looking for food in the bay area when it was captured and because it is essentially a fresh water animal the salinity of the bay water was an added hardship for the animal to endure while held captive on the beach.
Once the croc was contained it was loaded into a large PVC culvert which was secured onto the flatbed of the ACES truck. The animal was then hosed down with fresh water to assure its comfort while traveling. Although it was uncertain if the animal would survive the drive back to Punta Gorda the ACES team decided, based on the survival stamina of crocodiles in general, that it was worth a try.
Close to seven hours later they arrived in the dark to the ACES compound in Punta Gorda where the croc was unloaded into a solitary holding pen. Although blind and dazed the animal quickly moved into the fresh water pool where a chicken meal, fortified with vitamins and minerals was left in hopes that he would eat.
On Friday the croc did not visibly show increased signs of stress but his injuries (especially the exit wound from where he was shot) continued to fester. With the chicken meal untouched, it was decided that if he did not eat in the next 24 hours they would have to resort to force feeding the animal.
Unfortunately he did not eat and on Saturday morning the team contained the animal and inserted a large PVC tube into his mouth where they were able to shove pieces of chicken down the crocs throat. Hoping that once the croc had a meal he would find new strength to survive, the plan is to wait until today (Monday) and force feed him again.
Based on research from previous rescues of injured crocs the ACES team has found that after a couple of forced meals the animal usually starts to eat again. If this croc, which was named Ripley after a recent donor to the ACES facility, does not start eating after the forced-feeding regiment the team, with permission from the Belize Forest Department, may decide to euthanize the animal.
Although injured beyond any possibility of wild relocation, the ACES team hopes that if Ripley can return to good health he can live out his life serving his species as a means of educating the public about the horrors of animal abuse as well as crocodilian conservation.
Two species of crocodiles reside in Belize, the American Crocodile and Morelet's, and both are currently listed as endangered under the United States Endangered Species Act and are also considered threatened by the Coastal Zone Management Program, Department of Fisheries, and the Government of Belize due to a number of threats.
The San Pedro Sun will continue to report on Ripley’s status and you can read more about this story in Thursday’s issue. For more information about ACES please visit their website at http://www.americancrocodilesanctuary.org/
All photos property of The San Pedro Sun.