Jalisco’s “Crocodile Hunter” keeps alligators and humans safe from each other

There are crocodiles in Mexico in case someone might have a question.

There are actually three species, but the most common are American crocodile, American crocodile frequently inhabits estuaries and can grow to lengths of 5 meters or more.

Biologist Paulino Ponce is an independent researcher specializing in the crocodile-human-crocodile conflict. After graduating from the University of Guadalajara, he now leads a task force dedicated to the tricky business of finding and moving misplaced crocodiles in Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest inland waters.

“How did you get interested in the crocodile?” Asked Ponce.

“”Bueno, I’ve always been fascinated by reptiles, “he replied. “When I was five, my dad took us to the turtle sanctuary. Since then, I’ve been hooked. I loved all kinds of reptiles, but I believe Maybe not, but when I grew up I started studying music at the Guadalajara Institute Cabañas. Yes, I love music, sports and reptiles! “

Ponse also teaches about crocodiles. Here’s how to open a crocodile’s mouth at Villa Fantasia Park in Zapopan, Jalisco.Paulino Ponce

In the end, the reptiles seemed to win, and Ponce arrived at the amphibian reptiles at the Guadalajara Zoo.

“Here I worked with some of the most toxic snakes in the world,” he said. “I really enjoyed this, but in the end it was time to write a dissertation. I wanted to write something that was really useful not only for the seeds I was studying, but also for the environment. That’s why I chose American crocodile, At that time, it was on the Red List as endangered. “

As a result, Ponce arrived at the Rostaxtras Tropical Organism Station in Rostaxtras, Veracruz.

“Here,” he said. “I took a training course with a herpetologist Ph.D. and a crocodile. [Gustavo] Casas Andrew of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. At night, you’ll be told, “Come on, Paulino, let’s go for a beer!” But I was so fascinated by what I was learning that all I wanted to do was read more about the crocodile!

“Then I went out for fieldwork at the Laguna Catemaco farm, also in Veracruz. One of the professors of the course was Gonzalo Perez Igareda, a true crocodile expert. Showing the problems and techniques for catching a crocodile, he lifted the rope and said, “Well, who wants to get out and catch it right now?”

“Well, I immediately jumped up and grabbed the rope and said,’I! Myself!’ And there was this complete silence in the room. Nobody else said anything. It was a course about crocodiles, but others. No one volunteered for it! “

Crocodile in Jalisco, Mexico
A crocodile found in the forest of Primavera in Jalisco. It is packaged and ready to be picked up at the Animal Conservation Center. Carina Aguilar

I asked Ponce about the problem of the crocodile attack in Mexico.

“In 1993, the Mexican government held a conference on the alligator attack in Puerto Vallarta, where a child is believed to have died,” Ponce explained.

“After that, there were meetings, meetings, and meetings about the crocodile problem, and I stood up many times and said,’What are we doing in the world? Sitting around here, the crocodile May be eating someone. Let’s go take care of the problem! “

From that time on, Ponce began to take personal steps to deal with the situation of Jalisco’s crocodile.

One example occurred in 1996 when a 3-meter-long crocodile struck a 6-year-old girl in Puerto Vallarta. In this case, two crocodiles were captured and released elsewhere. In another case, a 4.68-meter crocodile killed a 5-year-old boy at the mouth of the Tomatlan River in Jalisco. The criminal was captured and sent to the enclosure.And there is a story about a crocodile discovered in 2009 Bosquera Primavera, a vast forest just west of Guadalajara.. Of course, Crocs are not unique to this forest, but they were swimming in a pond called El Cariso.

Crocodile patrol on Lake Chapala, Mexico
Lake Chapala Crocodile Patrol is preparing to tour the lake. Paulino Ponce

On April 28, 2009, Ponce led a team of volunteer crocodile wranglers for night crocodile hunting.

At first, they simply looked at the crocodile and observed its movements and favorite haunts. Reptiles appeared nearly two meters long and probably ate turtles and tilapia for some time.

US Peace Corps volunteer Mark Trinks is a member of the team, and he describes the first night they were floating in the middle of the pond to confront the crocodile.

“We had a long pole with a rope at the end. Paulino was in front of the boat and I was navigating behind. So that Paulino could turn his head with a rope. We quickly approached the crocodile, killed the motor, and tried to coast to him. We tried it three times that night until he was scared and no longer approached him.

“And on the night of the second day, I tried the same thing several times. The crocodile returned to the stream where the pond began. We surrounded him there. We’ll use the net to catch him. He was caught up in one of them, but when we approached to grab him, he swam under the net and ran away, so the second night was lost. . “

But the crocodile hunter wasn’t disappointed. The next morning, they returned to the pond and placed a snare trap fed with pieces of fresh fish.

Morelet's Crocodile in Jalisco, Mexico
The Ponse team with Morelet’s Crocodile was captured on Lake Chapala and returned to its original habitat on the Pacific coast. Carina Aguilar

Crocodiles feed and pull to trip these snares and close them around the animal’s neck and body.

“At 2:40 pm on the third day, a crocodile fell into a trap and we caught him,” said Trinks.

The crocodile is 1.74 meters long and “well-shaped but a little thin, probably due to lack of food in the area,” Trinks said.

Team member Carina Aguilar said the crocodile was deliberately there by “someone who doesn’t know how much damage such behavior can do not only to animals, but also to the equilibrium of the local ecosystem.” I lamented the fact that it seemed to be placed.

Ponse took a sample of crocodile DNA for his biogenetic database, and the Primavera crocodile was eventually returned to its natural habitat on the Pacific coast.

At Lake Chapala, like Bosque la Primavera, it was believed that there were no crocodiles, but that turned out to be untrue.

Paulino Ponce, a herpetologist in Jalisco, Mexico
Teach about toxic snakes in Campeche: Ponce uses hollow tubes to safely neutralize the deadly venomous snake of Nauyaka.

“For years I’ve been hearing rumors that people have seen crocodiles in the lake,” Ponce told me. Then, in 2011, they invited animal rescuer Andre Gonzales and I to the town of Tizapan on the south shore of Lake Chapala to get a crocodile captured by local police.

“Surprisingly, it ’s Crocodile Las Morelet Crocodile [Morelet’s crocodile] — Aboriginal people in the Gulf of Mexico, be careful! To make matters worse, the Tisapan police said Arroyo [stream] That they couldn’t catch. “

Why did I ask Ponce, is there a crocodile on Lake Chapala?

“Unfortunately, it was humans who brought them here,” he replied. After digging a lot, I learned many years ago that many crocodiles fled from Michoacan’s house, all heading straight to the River Lerma. [which connects Michoacán and Jalisco and eventually empties into Lake Chapala].. And this seems to be how the crocodile arrived at Lake Chapala. “

Biologists say that from the 1990s to the present, there are many records of crocodile sightings around Lake Chapala, worthy of continuous patrols.

Ponce formed a team to do exactly this, but “but” he said. “We need to keep replacing equipment that wears or damages. For example, we need snares, lights, petrol, nets, ropes, camera traps, and GoPro. [a small portable camera].. Our boats are for estuaries, but we need bigger boats to move around the lake. “

Paulino Ponce, a crocodile expert from Mexico
Ponse introduces Morelet’s Crocodile to TV viewers.

Financing is the team’s biggest problem, and Ponce seeks help from lakeside organizations.

“We need to monitor the entire lake,” he said. “Crocodiles continue to appear everywhere. There are registries from all over the lake, such as Ahihiku, Hokotepek, Sanpedro, Hamai … and some of them are over 3 meters in size!” Lake Chapala! Is about 80 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide.

“There are lots of aquatic plants and there are all sorts of places where crocodiles can hide,” Ponce said. “It’s unlikely that you’ll get caught in a crocodile, but it’s a good idea to be careful. People need to be especially careful with children and pets. As far as crocodiles are concerned, they’re all” bite-sized. ” We know that crocodiles can surprise and catch fast animals like cheetahs, so we need to be vigilant along the shores of the lake. Sometimes the crocodile grabs an adult, for example a drunkard. “

“Once upon a time, more than 70% of alligator bites in Mexico were fishermen,” he said. “But lately, tourists [them], Not only in the lake, but also in Cancun, Vallarta and Manzanillo. “

To report a crocodile sighting on Lake Chapala (in English or Spanish), call Paulino Ponce on WhatsApp phone number 331-574-9417.You can also send a message to [email protected] Make a note of where and when you witnessed it, the approximate size of the crocodile, and take a photo or video if possible.

And if you have the financial resources, consider helping the team.

The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco since 1985.His latest book is Outdoors in western Mexico, Volume 3. Details of his work are in him blog.. Jalisco’s “Crocodile Hunter” keeps alligators and humans safe from each other

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