Crocodiles released by UNal are alive and active
Satellite tracking that Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) experts do on “Federico", “Cristina", “John" and “Miriam" show that they are alive and well and that they have also traveled several miles.Bogotá D. C., 16 de diciembre de 2015 — Agencia de Noticias UN-
This image depicts how the two crocodile couples have traveled with respect to where they were released.
The four reptiles were born at the UNal Roberto Franco Tropical Biological Station in Villavicencio and were taken to the Serranía de La Macarena this past October 31st. Each one was fitted with a satellite transmitter to help track them through the web.
“Federico” and “Cristina” are located on the Guayabero River and have only moved 2.3 kms (1.4 miles) from where they were released; although “Cristina” has been more active.
“Federico” is the largest of all and the one that sends the least information, indicating he may pass most of his time underwater. This could show the thermoregulation mechanisms of larger crocodiles which need to spend more time in water and only expose part of their back to the sun to obtain the necessary heat.
The other couple, “John” and “Miriam” are not the same. They were set free on the Lozada River, also on the Serranía de La Macarena. “Miriam” is now 9 kms (5.5 miles) from where she was released and “John” has traveled 31 kms (19.2 miles) downstream. This could be due that this river is a bit more fast-flowing and they can travel faster. Food availability could also be a factor.
“We continue to collect data; it has been a great experience since we released them after almost a month and a half. We are learning on animal behavior in real time. Now we will become cognizant of the most appropriate preservation methods”, said UNal Biologist and expert tracker Rafael Moreno.
Species in danger
All the release effort and tracking has been achieved with the unsurmountable purpose that this species of crocodile, known as Crocodylus intermedius, is in critical danger of extinction.
Despite it biological value and being a symbol of the eastern Colombian plains, estimates say that there are no more than 200 individuals in the wild as they were hunted without mercy for more than 30 years between 1930 and 1960, to use their skin to make shoes, wallets and other accessories.
The UNal Roberto Franco Tropical Biological Station currently has little more than 490 crocodiles in captivity. This is the only place in Colombia which preserves and is authorized to reproduce them.
Other of the benefits of satellite tracking is that they can know in real time, when a reptile is close to populated areas. If this happens they will take emergency and safety measures included in the UNal Sanitarian Health Management Protocol which was written for their release and management.
A few days ago a Civil Defense officer called Moreno to tell him that people near the municipality of La Macarena said they had seen a crocodile near the city and that another one had been killed. He immediately verified through the satellite signal that none of the UNal released crocodiles had come close to any of the settlements of the region and dismissed the alarm.
“The purpose is to continue working with rural communities so they do not kill the crocodiles and avoid speculations on their behavior,” said Moreno.
Many people kill them because they consider them as an inevitable threat, despite that the crocodiles run from human beings and are determinate factors for wet grounds as they eat many dead fish.
For now the group, besides Moreno is comprised of Veterinarian Carlos Moreno, Biologist Cristina Ardila and Willington Martínez, all from UNal and supported by the UNal Deputy Rector's Office of Research will continue to carry out animal releases.
Furthermore the team hopes to have a website in an alliance with Unimedios for the general public can observe the location of the crocodiles through the web.(Por: FIN/JSH/MLA