Two weeks ago, the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES) in San Pedro Town made a harrowing discovery – a crocodile beached in the mangroves that had been reduced to mere reptile skin and bones. What ACES later discovered, however, was much worse. It turns out that the crocodile was starving to death and could not eat because its stomach was filled with plastic bags. Chris Summers, who runs the ACES rescue and rehabilitation program, told Love News what happened after they encountered the croc.
Chris Summers, Founder, American Crocodile Education Sanctuary: “I mean as soon as we saw him we know it was bad. Initially we didn’t really realize how underweight he was. We knew his tail was badly infected because even from fifteen- twenty feet away we could see the infection and we could smell it; we could smell the rot from the infection and then once we approached him real close then we really understood just how underweight he was. I’ve seen a lot of crocs in some messed up states and I’ve never personally seen a crocodile looking that bad. He was so bad I was amazed that he survived the stress of the capture and the drive back to our facility here. I didn’t think he would survive either of those he was so bad. We had to euthanized, of course we had to get veterinary assistance and authorization from the Belize Forest Department. So we brought him back to our facility here on Ambergris Caye, we got him comfortable, we got him shaded, he didn’t have anything to him he wasn’t even tied up and he never tried to get up or walk off or run away or thrash there was just nothing left to him at all. We did a necropsy prior to burying and you know everything in him looked okay until we got to his stomach and his intestines and his stomach was just fully compacted like it looked filled to the brim and his intestines was shriveled from lack of use. So yeah it was apparent even just feeling the stomach you could feel that it wasn’t natural food sources in there and as soon as we made the first incision into the stomach you could immediately see the plastic poking through.”
It is unclear if the crocodile found the plastic bags and ate them, or if someone fed them to him. Since the croc was found at an illegal feeding area, Summers warned the public about the dangers of feeding the animals as well as the dangers of leaving plastics lying around.
Chris Summers, Founder, American Crocodile Education Sanctuary: “This animal frequents a popular and yet very illegal feeding area where people feed the crocodiles. Once we cleaned all the of the bags and we were able to inspect them properly in the daylight we could see that some of them were whole chicken bags, a lot of them were the kind of bags that neck and back come in and then a lot of them were the innards of the whole chicken so some of this could have been a case of okay they didn’t pick the innards out and just gave him the whole chicken, some of it could have been accidentally discarded and he ate it because he was hungry and it smelled like chicken but a lot of the bags were folded up into very tight little squares. One of the bags that wasn’t a chicken bag was just a regular black plastic grocery bag was full of seeds and we have footage and we’ve had reports from this area before of people using garbage to bait in the crocs for tourists. I don’t know of any animal that can take in plastic and digest it and pass it through their system and come out the other side completely harm free. You know we have turtles on the ocean side who are seeing white plastic bags and thinking of a jellyfish and trying to eat them and suffocating. We’ve got all kind of fish that are ingesting microplastics with all these solid plastics that end up on the beach or wash in on the beach and they break down into tiny plastics and wash back out into the ocean these get eaten up by fish and eventually this all ends up inside us. You know this plastic problem, this garbage problem affects every single one of us in one way or another. You know the species that we have here are usually very shy, they don’t want anything to do with us at all. Once you start feeding them just like feeding a stray dog or feeding any wild animal you now teach them to associate you with food they lose their fear and that’s when attacks happen. Every attack that I’ve ever responded to in country is because somebody has fed that animal.”
In other crocodile news, a small croc was seen over the weekend swimming in the pool at Bacab Eco Park located on the Burrell Boom Road. While it alarmed many, apparently it is not uncommon to see animals such as turtles and snakes lounging in the pool. This may be the first time a crocodile was spotted, but the eco-park noted that the workers usually arrive at the pools two hours in advance to sanitize and clean the pool of any wildlife that may have wandered in.