Crocs and Humans: Peaceful co-existence through Education

Reports of crocodile attacks in Mexico are infrequent, but when they do come they raise questions — not to mention some fear — about the danger of swimming in the ocean.

Maricela Ornelas Cortes was attacked while swimming at 6:30 in the evening on Sunday August 31st,  at the beach in Barra de Santa Ana in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán. Family members helped the woman from the water and she was taken to the IMSS hospital. Her condition was serious, according to the last report.

In Quintana Roo, meanwhile, in the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve in Tulum, a youngster narrowly escaped being attacked while having a swim. A video shows the crocodile following his victim and steadily gaining, but onlookers began throwing objects in the water and successfully diverted the reptile, reported to have measured three meters in length.

(Read article published on The Yucatan Times Friday, August 15th, 2014)

One might think that golfing would be rather safer than swimming, but last fall a Scottish tourist was enjoying a round of golf on a course in Cancún when he discovered a new type of water hazard. His ball in a bunker, five meters from some thick brush, the unfortunate golfer was about to take his shot when a four-meter crocodile leaped from the brush and took a chunk out of his thigh.

(Read article on The Yucatan Times on November 12th, 2013)

Two of his friends began beating it with their golf clubs while a third repeatedly ran over it with a golf cart before it returned to a nearby swamp.

Just a few months before, an American tourist lost two of his fingers on the same course when a crocodile leaped from behind some bushes and attacked.

Crocodile at Golf Course in Riviera Maya, Mexico (Photo: Reuters)
Crocodile at Golf Course in Riviera Maya, Mexico (Photo: Reuters)

There are few golf courses on the coast of Oaxaca, but the danger in that region comes from hurricanes, according to Héctor Aguilar Reyes of the organization Crocodilians Without Borders.

He reports that there has been an increase in crocodile attacks in recent weeks in the lagoons of Chacahua and Manialtepec as well as the beaches of Escobilla and Ventanilla. Aguilar claims that one fisherman has died and several people injured by croc bites.

He says these incidents are a result of the habitat being destroyed by natural occurrences, and cites the effects of Carlotta, although it’s been more than two years since the Category 1 hurricane swept into the area in 2012.

Aguilar thinks there should be controls. As many as two years ago he was saying there was “a plague of crocodiles” on the Oaxacan coast due to the absence of a program to control their population.

His group conducted a census of the reptiles, coming up with a population figure of over 4,000 in three different lagoons, and estimating that in that coastal area there are more than 6,000 crocodiles measuring four and a half to six meters in length.

For a number of others interested in crocodile populations such high numbers might be cause for celebration. It was only just last Saturday August 30th, that preservationists, environmentalists, academics, politicians and others gathered in a village in the Oaxaca municipality of Santa María Tonameca to celebrate the International Day of the Crocodile.

The message coming from that gathering was one of peaceful co-existence through education. A research professor with the National Autonomous University said it’s fundamental that people who live near crocodile habitat understand their habits and way of life.

Jesús García Grajales suggested a study is needed to determine where the crocodiles are and create a map so people could avoid the risky areas.

Worldwide, there are several hundred attacks on humans reported annually, fatal and non-fatal. The “conflict” is getting worse, says CrocBITE, a crocodilian attack database, as populations recover from overhunting, and people increasingly encroach on their habitat.

That the database might be a reliable source was confirmed by the report, on the list of recent attacks, of Sunday’s victim in Michoacán.

A quick search revealed that there have been 60 attacks by American crocodiles, the most common species, on people since 2000, six of them fatal.

If there’s a lesson here it’s that swimmers (and golfers) exercise caution, watch for crocodile warning signs — and crocodiles. Otherwise, a swimming pool does represent a rather attrative alternative.




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