Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2020. 3:48 pm CST.
By BBN Staff: Last week, police arrested and charged four men in Placencia for skinning an adult American Crocodile, which is illegal under the Wildlife Protection Act. Apart from the fact that the animal is protected, Dr. Marissa Tellez notes that this particular species is critically endangered in Belize, which makes a strong case for crocodile ranching in Belize.
“This loss of the crocodile is not just a loss to American crocs in Belize, it is a loss to the biodiversity of the Placencia Lagoon and all of Belize as our wildlife is just as much of the culture as food, dance and music,” Tellez said.
Tellez explained that, under a ranching program, members of the community would go out during crocodile nesting season and remove a number of eggs or young crocodiles from the wild and raise them in a controlled environment. Once the crocodiles reach a certain size or age, they would then be humanely slaughtered for the meat and skin. A number of those raised would also be released back into the wild to ensure a sustainable population.
“A ranch would not just benefit the crocodiles but the community as well because now you have a sustainable stream of income coming into the community,” Tellez said.”This would take the pressure off the hunting and they would make more money in a ranch program. It can provide a lot of jobs, and protect various other natural habitats, not just crocs.”
She noted that she raised the issue of crocodile ranching with the Forestry Department last year, and that the recent encounter with the four men who have been fined for their crime, will bring that discussion back to the forefront. Tellez notes that all indications were that the perpetrators were not harvesting the croc for their own consumption and were a part of a larger operation happening in Belize and all over the world in which, entities pay people to commit wildlife crimes.
“It’s something that’s kind of known that there are people that will hire those from villages that may have a little bit less to commit these crimes, meanwhile they walk around society with a clean record and it’s not fair,” Tellez added. “But the crocodile ranching would have a domino effect because since people are making money from the crocs they are going to want to protect the environment to ensure that the crocs have a good habitat.”
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