Costa Rica’s crocodile invasion

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    The “Rio Grande de Tarcoles” (a river called Grande in Tárcoles), in the Central Pacific of Costa Rica, has become in recent years, a tourist attraction of great proportions, for both national and for countless groups of foreign tourists that go to different destinations in the country. The reason? The presence of a significant population of large crocodiles, which are grouped mainly by the bridge, and has generated the fascination of hundreds of people seeking to admire and photograph these amazing reptiles.

    This growing flow of people and commercial activity around this bridge gave way to the operation of ships or tours to take tourists along the river to watch crocodiles and fauna of the area. Among the attractions that more tourists bring is to feed the crocodiles, achieving spectacular displays of feeding behavior of these giant predators, reaching between 3 and 5 meters long.
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    With cold blood and exposed to high risk, some guides attract with pieces of meat the crocodiles for them to get out of the water, sometimes they rise several meters to take the prey, to the amazement of tourists. However, this activity was recently banned by the authorities of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, on the grounds that it alters the natural behavior of this species, in addition to the implicit risk for those who perform it.

    Is Costa Rica facing a crocodile overpopulation?

    In the midst of this growing touristic activity, has emerged the question on whether there is an overpopulation of crocodiles in Costa Rica or not. Mainly because many people perceive that after the ban on hunting in the country the population of these reptiles grew significantly. Besides that, crocodile attacks on people have also increased in different localities. Cases that have helped strengthen the hypothesis of an overpopulation of crocodiles, especially in certain specific locations of the Pacific slope.

    This controversy has also been part of the work of several groups of biologists, experts in crocodiles that have been working on the generation of data to confirm or refute this hypothesis.

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    The truth is that there is a general consensus among researchers that crocodile populations in the Pacific slope have been recovering and that their numbers have increased significantly, which added to the growth of the human population, increases the frequency of sightings and close contact, because crocodiles are returning to colonize territories where they had previously disappeared.

    A very particular aspect in this event is that the results of the current monitoring of crocodiles confirm that there is a significantly higher number of male animals, a situation that is also being investigated to determine the causes of this disproportion of sexes.

    As a general reflection, there is an urgent need to understand that crocodiles are an integral part of the dynamics of aquatic ecosystems in our country and one of the most important vertebrates at the top of the food chain. Preserving a healthy state of their populations and avoid conflict with human communities is our responsibility.

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