Mexico
Mexico is a wonderfully diverse country that offers endless experiences for travelers. From the indigenous Mayan cultural sites to the excitement of Mexico City with its beautiful colonial buildings, it is immensely architecturally diverse. It’s natural landscapes displays desert landscapes, snow-capped volcanoes and lonely beaches but the flora and fauna top off the collection of beauty in this wonderful country.

In 2003 I was invited to Cancun and Tampico in Mexico to help with the management of their two crocodile species.

Due to an expanding human population, hunting and extensive habitat destruction, both of Mexico’s Crocodilian species have an endangered status. The American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) prefers coastal habitats and attains a length of 4 metres. The Morelet’s Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) prefers freshwater habitats and attains lengths over 3 metres.

Cancun
Cancun is a total tourism mecca with millions of tourists entering the water with a thriving population of American Crocodiles. Despite 20 bites from crocs taking place in recent years no one has been fatally bitten. This is largely due to the placid nature of the American Croc; people simply aren’t on the menu.

   
Cancun attracts millions of tourism with its sensational beaches and waterways. This would be the last place I’d expect to see a thriving population of the endangered American Crocodile.    

What an amazing place. It is easy to see why the management of crocodiles is so important amongst the hustle and bustle of eager tourists sharing water with very large reptiles. I teamed up with my good friend Marco Lazcano the Executive Director of Amigo’s Conservation Company. He’s a top bloke and is Mexico’s leading crocodile expert. Amigos also manages Sian Kaan which is a beautiful set of coastal lagoons with clear water and plenty of crocs.

 
Marco and I are amigos (good friends) and passionate about Crocodilian management. We’ve worked together in Cancun and Tampico.   Marco directs the skipper as I prepare to snorkel with a large croc in the crystal clear waters of Sian Kaan.
     
 
Have a go at the size of her. Despite her size I’m in no danger – American Crocodiles are a relatively placid species and mostly bite only if provoked.   This is a good sign; one of last year’s hatchlings looking fat and happy

The successful management of Mexico’s crocodiles will have a knock on effect for all other species that share their domain. Crocodiles are apex predators, at the top of the food chain, so virtually all species below them are indirectly reliant on their presence and well being. A healthy population of crocodiles is an indication of a healthy ecosystem and environment.

 
Sharing the crocodile’s domain is the beautiful Manatee. These huge herbivores also suffer from such a large population of humans in their territory.   “Crocs in the City”. I never got used to catching crocs amongst the boats, swimmers, high-rise and the bustling tourism mecca.
     
 
Rock Iguanas coexist with the crocodiles very efficiently. They don’t coexist with busy roads. I saved this one as he tried to cross the main road.   Have a go at this bloke I caught right under the Mexican monument. Note the huge Mexican flag behind me.
 
Check out these little beauties!!! Redskins’ Cheerleaders were doing their swimwear photo shoot fair smack dab in crocodile territory.   Isn’t she gorgeous! A defensive female guarding her nest.
     
 
Her nest was at the sewerage treatment plant.   Nice big tummy on a nesting female.
     
 
Even the young ones were in very good condition. Having such a large population of people here means there are plenty of rodents, insects, birds, cats and dogs which are all on the menu.   Here’s an age old problem with crocodile management. People discarding fish frames and carcasses inadvertently trains crocodiles to expect food from people.
     
 
I’m filming at the site of the most recent crocodile bite. Someone was drunk and asleep under the bridge where a well known croc who scavenges fisherman’s bait came up through the night and gave the bloke a small chomp – “just after some bait”.   I walked right up to this one with my head torch.
     

Tampico
Built by hard labor and with the richness of the land and the sea, Tampico is a happy, fun-loving city that has extraordinary history. The historic center of Tampico displays a mixture of styles, the Nouveau stone contours, French ironwork and the English style influences, the wooden houses painted in Louisiana style and the kiosks, balconies and marquees will catch your eye.

Tampico provides an atmosphere and environment that is warm and friendly. The warm climate and scenic beaches provide a myriad of excitement and activity.

A beautiful population of Morelet’s Crocodiles call Tampico’s Lagoon home. This is virtually in the CBD. All around, the lagoon waterside walkways, restaurants, tourist and city facilities have resident crocodiles sunning themselves amongst the hustle and bustle of the city. I was invited to help the Tampico City manage their crocodiles. This involved safety and tourism issues as well as the crocs need for nest sites and general ecosystem stability. This population of Morelet’s Crocodiles poses no direct threat to anyone and they certainly are a tourism icon that people travel thousands of miles to come and see. The greatest gift I had to give in my management plan was the idea to utilize the right bank for nesting females as a place for them to retreat and nest safely. Unfortunately nesting females will bite people if provoked or stumbled upon.

 
This female Morelet’s crocodile is gearing up to attack me because I’m too close to her nest.   Her nest is immediately above her hole. It’s a mound she has scratched up from grass leaves and dirt.
     
   
Provided we make allowances for nesting females the famous crocodiles of Tampico Lagoon will coexist forever with the visiting tourists.    
Cocodrilos de la Laguna del Carpintero
Newspaper article from El Diario de Tampico 13 February 2003

Click here for english transcript
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English Transcript
CROCODILES OF CARPENTER LAGOON

News Source: The Daily Tampico, Vol. 13, No. 113, February 13, 2003
By: Autora Ortega
Translation by: Ramon Gama

At last, being able to contribute to the project for the preservation of the species of crocodiles of Carpenter Lagoon, Australian Steve Irwin was in Tampico taking in the beauty that this location offers and to study the behaviour of this species.

Having Carpenter Lagoon as a stage Steve Irwin, known as the Crocodile Hunter on the television series "Animal Planet", held a press conference to announce his participation in the preservation of the Moreleti crocodiles that inhabit the waters of Carpenter Lagoon.

He was accompanied by Marco A. Lazcano Barrero, Executive Director of "Friends of Sian Ka'an", Conserving the Natural Inheritance of Quintana Roo; Manuel Carrera, responsible for the project to integrate the population of crocodiles of Tampico; and Alejandro Fierro Cabo, sub-director of Ecological Assistance of Tampico.

First of all, Steve Irwin told how his trips of filming jungle life documentaries throughout the world began when he was a child because his father was a crocodile hunter. He added that nowhere in Asia has he visited situations like this one, which is unique to Tampico where crocodiles and humans live in harmony.

His pleasure of being present in Tampico was demonstrated by the fervor of the people and the enthusiasm with which the people of Mexico responded. Steve Irwin explained that his appearance in Tampico, as well as the other colleagues, is to work towards a solution to identify what is diminishing the crocodile population - how it lives in the lagoon, where it nests-and to find ways of managing a plan to enable the crocodiles to live forever in the region. And for that, this group of experts like Manuel Carrera, Marco Lazcano, and Alejandro will continue the project.

Manuel Carrera continued, stating that he will definitely introduce a way of monitoring the crocodiles of the lagoon to be able to determine when the crocodiles can become a problem and when to take measures to relocate the animals. They will monitor when a crocodile may be a potential aggressive animal towards people and to find a way to relocate it in a sanctuary where it will not be a problem to humans. They are looking for a means to maintain the crocodile population, but still conserve the security of the people and find harmony. It is not about trying to take the animals out of the lagoon and locate them to another place where they have no contact with humans - only to take those that are considered a potential danger, and sustain a means to conserve the species.

The Crocodile Hunter indicated that the Saurios-the higher order of the food chain-is to protect the many species that inhabit the lagoon and to guarantee that the same support is addressed to the other species that interact with the crocodiles.

After he received information that was sent to him by the City of Tampico, he became interested in it. He said he hopes to return in a few years to enjoy the beach with his daughter Bindi, and his wife Terri.

City authorities informed us that the collaboration of Steve Irwin should not incur a cost to the city. It will be funded by an external contribution that the program has with interest groups of the diverse species of he world programs.

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Tampico Crocodile Management Plan:
Morelets Crocodile in Laguna del Carpintero
by Steve Irwin

  • Human safety always remains the priority and the primary focus of the plan.
  • Monthly crocodile assessment by an authorised expert to determine:
    • Potential crocodile/human conflicts or likely areas for conflict.Crocodile social structure of the lagoon.
      Individual crocodile territories and population hierarchy.
      Reproduction and recruitment into the population.
      Human/crocodile confrontations including interference of crocodile nests, feeding of animals and injuries to animals and humans.
    • Other wildlife.
    All aspects of the monitoring will be documented.
    Design and construct a crocodile-nesting zone. This would incorporate corridors of water along tunnels, canals and pipes to a fenced safe area where females can bask, submerge, feed and feel secure close to their nest sites. This would be a major and popular destination for both locals and tourists.
    Provide islands in the lagoon for basking sites close to popular people areas so that crocodile viewing is achieved. Existing basking sites are a good guide as to where these islands should be constructed.
    Identify and document, monitor and if necessary capture and remove any crocodile exhibiting nuisance or aggressive behaviour towards humans or human activities.
    Crocodiles should only be captured when absolutely necessary. Capturing creates a negative experience that has the potential to alter the crocodiles behaviour.
    Crocodile reproduction should be encouraged as the lagoon could easily accommodate 100 adults (animals longer than 1.5 meters).
    After all developments are completed, Steve Irwin will inspect and reassess the situation within the lagoon.
    Other important issues include the promotion and protection of other wildlife around the lagoon including the Green Iguanas and the many species of wild bird. This will help create an entire wilderness and wildlife experience for all visitors to the lagoon.
    All facilities and attractions surrounding the lagoon should be linked to create maximum awareness and interest. An example of this would be within the cultural centre where a Morelet's Crocodile interpretation could be created to fascinate and educate visitors about the lagoon, the crocodiles and conservation. Signs could direct visitors to the nesting zones, the best viewing areas and the boats. Likewise, signs at these areas could direct visitors to the museum and cultural centre.
  • The boat trips should include stops at the viewing areas, nesting zones and the cultural centre. Cross promotion will enhance visitor's wilderness experience while providing education and spending at local businesses.
  • Human safety always remains the priority and the primary focus of the plan.
  • Monthly crocodile assessment by an authorised expert to determine:
    • Potential crocodile/human conflicts or likely areas for conflict.Crocodile social structure of the lagoon.
      Individual crocodile territories and population hierarchy.
      Reproduction and recruitment into the population.
      Human/crocodile confrontations including interference of crocodile nests, feeding of animals and injuries to animals and humans.
    • Other wildlife.
    All aspects of the monitoring will be documented.
    Design and construct a crocodile-nesting zone. This would incorporate corridors of water along tunnels, canals and pipes to a fenced safe area where females can bask, submerge, feed and feel secure close to their nest sites. This would be a major and popular destination for both locals and tourists.
    Provide islands in the lagoon for basking sites close to popular people areas so that crocodile viewing is achieved. Existing basking sites are a good guide as to where these islands should be constructed.
    Identify and document, monitor and if necessary capture and remove any crocodile exhibiting nuisance or aggressive behaviour towards humans or human activities.
    Crocodiles should only be captured when absolutely necessary. Capturing creates a negative experience that has the potential to alter the crocodiles behaviour.
    Crocodile reproduction should be encouraged as the lagoon could easily accommodate 100 adults (animals longer than 1.5 meters).
    After all developments are completed, Steve Irwin will inspect and reassess the situation within the lagoon.
    Other important issues include the promotion and protection of other wildlife around the lagoon including the Green Iguanas and the many species of wild bird. This will help create an entire wilderness and wildlife experience for all visitors to the lagoon.
    All facilities and attractions surrounding the lagoon should be linked to create maximum awareness and interest. An example of this would be within the cultural centre where a Morelet's Crocodile interpretation could be created to fascinate and educate visitors about the lagoon, the crocodiles and conservation. Signs could direct visitors to the nesting zones, the best viewing areas and the boats. Likewise, signs at these areas could direct visitors to the museum and cultural centre.
  • The boat trips should include stops at the viewing areas, nesting zones and the cultural centre. Cross promotion will enhance visitor's wilderness experience while providing education and spending at local businesses.
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