Crocodiles will begin courting between December and the end of January in Yucatán and you may be surprised to learn how tender this interaction is. Crocodiles are highly intelligent and emotional and if you’re lucky, you may even get to see them gently rubbing snouts during their mating rituals. Wild crocodiles are most easily observed in natural reserves such as Ría Celestún and Río Lagartos, where you can take tours guided by local experts. The two local species are the Morelet’s and American crocodile.
Crocodiles have played an intrinsic role in the history of the region. They survived the meteor strike and were revered by the ancient Maya. Despite all of that, they were nearly wiped out by humans in the 1970s and early 80s.
Pierre Charruau from the Centro del Cambio Global y la Sustentabilidad A.C., who has been studying crocodiles on the Yucatán Peninsula, explained that while the Morelet’s has recovered somewhat due to conservation efforts, as a coastal species; the American crocodile has not done as well, explaining, “The coastal development due to tourism in the Yucatán Peninsula is destroying, fragmenting, and polluting its habitat.”
According to Dr. Charruau these are ongoing threats:
“As the fragmentation and destruction of the natural habitat is not slowing down in the Peninsula and will likely increase due to the current big project of the government (Tren Maya), natural reserves appear to be the best options of conservation for the remnant crocodile populations.”
Unfortunately, many people are frightened of crocodiles. Dr. Marisa Tellez, IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group Vice Regional Chair of Latin America, says, “The majority of croc attacks in our region can be attributed to habituating crocodiles by directly and indirectly feeding them.” Dr. Tellez continued by stressing their significance to the region, “Conserving wildlife like crocodiles is an important aspect of culture just like food, dance, art, and clothing; crocodiles have a strong cultural and spiritual connection to the first people of the Yucatán whose heritage continues to influence this region’s culture.”
These apex predators are essential to the health of our mangroves, lagoons, reefs, and sea life and are legally protected. If you have concerns about a crocodile that may be at risk, México has official protocols for dealing with them. Please dial 911 to make a report.
More information can be found here: https://www.gob.mx/conanp/documentos/protocolo-de-atencion-a-contingencias-humano-cocodrilianos
Editorial by Colette Kase.
Photography by Luis Díaz Gamboa and Marisa Tellez for use in Yucatán Today.
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