By: Ellen Zoe Golden Photos courtesy: MINAE
The most aggressive crocodile in the Tamarindo Estuary is out of town.
On October 16, officials of Las Baulas National Marine Park, along with scientists and volunteers, captured the crocodile that was identified as the one that attacked Jon Becker in July.
According to Juan Carlos Cerdas, Vice President of ADI, the croc was relocated in good condition to an undisclosed wildlife center authorized by the government.
The move was in accordance with the administrative resolution number ACTOR-DR-098-2016 taken on September 7, 2016, and was only able to take place after a study was conducted by experts in this matter.
This decision was taken after a study was conducted by crocodile experts and they concluded from the technical criteria to relocate the crocodile. The delay in this relocation was due to the inability to locate the crocodile these past few weeks.
The ADI thanks SINAC for their constant and efficient work in finding solutions and for keeping the Tamarindo community informed and part of this procedure. This is the result of many meetings and hard work by many organizations, all dedicated to the protection of our wildlife and humans.
Last month, SINAC informed the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Tamarindo (ADI), that after much study, they have approved the relocation of “the largest crocodile specimen that was presumably responsible for the recent attack” on local surfer Jon Becker a few months ago. The announcement was made at a meeting on October 6 to representatives of Las Baulas Nacional Marine Park of Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía (MINAE), SINAC (Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación), the Fuerza Pública, Guanacaste Tourism Chamber CATURGUA, ADI Tamarindo, and members of the Tamarindo community.
However, Cerdas said, the relocation did not take place right away because the officials could not find the targeted animal. Meanwhile, on October 18, environmental lawyer Walter Brenes filed a legal injunction on behalf of Tamarindo against MINAE and SINAC to safeguard the population and tourist of Tamarindo from dangerous crocodiles, not just the one that was singled out.
Brenes, who was the co-producer of the World Surf League Qualifying Series Costa Rica Pro contest that took place last month in Esterillos, was motivated to action after that contest was stopped two times because of crocodile sightings in the lineup.
“Between the attack in Tamarindo, and the news about the crocodiles at the QS in Esterillos now surfers from around the world think that if they surf in Costa Rica they will have to deal with crocodiles,” said Brenes.
After a meeting with Federico Pilurzu, a professional surfer and Hernan Imhoff, president of the Tamarindo Chamber of Conference, Brenes took into consideration information he received from them as well as from Andrea Díaz, another professional surfer who attended the ADI meetings on this matter in order to act.
He decided that legal action on behalf of Tamarindo was paramount because, he explained, “Tamarindo has more tourists and more people getting close to the crocodiles.”
The law cited for the court was Article 22 of the Conservación de Vida Silestre. It reads: “The exotic native wildlife that causes damage to any ecosystem in the agriculture, livestock and public health can be caught, controlled, seized, removed, or relocated in accordance with the provisions to be determined in the rules of this law, upon completion of the technical and scientific studies and evaluations of economic cost-benefit.
However, in the event of imminent danger to the integrity of the people, a person may, in defense, proceed to capture, control or, as a last resort, threaten to eliminate the specimen, without any such action or sanctions.”
The judge, who Brenes said was “very concerned,” only took five hours to render a decision. “He is asking for information from SINAC, what procedures they are taking, and they have three days (beginning October 24) to return with that information. The judge will then take a decision to relocate aggressive crocodiles or maybe kill them, but that one is the last option.”
“We presented on October 20, and SINAC moved on the October 16. Why did they keep this a secret? It took 3 months to get that one croc located. Now, with our action, we will have all the reports in the legal files, and we can keep on SINAC to do more biological studies on the crocodiles. They need to move more crocodiles—they have 88 crocodiles there in one river. We have a big problem, it’s not just one crocodile.”
Brenes explained that the breed of crocodile that is causing the problems in Costa Rica, is not indigenous to this country. In the 1990s, the Costa Rican crocodiles were near extinction, and the government stepped in to seed the rivers with the North American crocodiles found elsewhere.
“And now, they are out of control,” he concluded. A 2011 report from the Central American Crocodile Specialists Association said that MINAE has to be responsible for the removal and transfer of crocodiles from the Tempisque area in Guanacaste, where crocs tripled in population from 1996-2011.