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Wildlife expert mauled by 3-meter crocodile in Costa Rica

October 8, 2014

A Costa Rican crocodile expert is now recuperating in a hospital bed after being bitten last Wednesday by a crocodile during a relocation demonstration in the coffee town of Atenas, 44 kilometers northwest of the capital.

Due to an increase in the number of aggressive crocodiles in highly populated areas in Costa Rica, the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) is holding workshops with Coast Guard and police officers to demonstrate how to capture and relocate crocodiles. Adrian Arce, SINAC’s director of wildlife for the Tárcoles region, was working as a demonstrator in one of those workshops at the National Technical University in Atenas when he was attacked. 

The subject of the demonstration was a particularly feisty 3-meter (9-foot) male crocodile that had been living in a local lagoon for 20 years. According to SINAC official Jorge Hernández, who was on the scene during the attack, Arce and biologists were using a rod with a lasso on the end to fish around in the water where the crocodile was last seen when the crocodile suddenly appeared from the water directly in front of Arce. The croc grabbed onto Arce’s leg, sinking its teeth into his calf. 

“You can think you’ve got your eyes on [a crocodile], but those things are faster than anyone’s eye,” Hernández said.

After the bite, Arce was moved to an Alajuela hospital where doctors gave him 50 stitches and released him. He returned to the hospital days later after he developed a fever, possibly due to an infection from the lagoon’s dirty water. Despite the injury, Arce and others from SINAC are just happy it wasn’t worse.

“Usually when crocodiles bite down they don’t let go until they’ve dragged their prey underwater to drown it,” Hernández said. “What happened to Adrian was serious, but it wasn’t a real bite.”

Arce’s incident is the latest in a series of crocodile attacks this year and comes little more than a week after police relocated a crocodile from a popular tourist beach near Jacó. According to crocodile experts, the increased aggression can be attributed to habitat loss, overpopulation and human expansion to previously unoccupied areas.

“In this country we have a problem with people not knowing how to behave around crocodiles,” Hernández said. “Adrian had a lot of experience and this still happened to him. If it happened to him it can happen to anyone.”

To read more about Costa Rica’s problems with aggressive crocodiles see: Costa Rica’s crocodile conundrum

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