Episode 2 – Saltwater Crocodile

Fast Facts:

• Turneffe Atoll has one of the most important nesting beaches in Belize for the endangered American saltwater crocodile
• Global warming/climate change devastates coral reefs, causing coral bleaching. This affects whole ecosystems, including bigger animals up the food chain, like crocodiles
• Destruction of mangroves and coastal development threatens the beaches where crocodiles lay their eggs
• Rubbish is also a big threat to the whole marine eco-system and marine mammals. Seven billion tons of rubbish is dumped into our oceans every year.

American Saltwater Crocodiles and Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are one of the oldest types of living systems on Earth and the variety of life they support rivals that of the tropical forests of the Amazon or New Guinea.

Coral reefs, and the mangroves and sea grass beds that often surround them, are a crucial for a lot of fish and other animal life. For example, the American Saltwater Crocodile lays its eggs on beaches which have mangrove areas because the baby crocodiles need the mangroves for the first few months of their lives. The American saltwater crocodile is considered one of the most threatened species in Belize. Although they are still occasionally hunted as nuisances or for their skins, the primary threat stems from the loss of their nesting habitat to coastal development. To be able to try to plan and implement sustainable coastal development it’s important to know where the crocs are.

Reefs are the nurseries for about a quarter of the ocean's fish, and thus provide revenue for local communities and national and international fishing fleets. By helping to maintain healthy fish stocks, reefs also provide food security for thousands of coastal communities which depend almost entirely on fish for protein.

Coral reefs are very important for humans as well. The latest estimates suggest that reefs provide close to US$ 30 billion per year in benefits, including fishing, tourism and coastal protection.

But more than a quarter of all the world's coral reefs have already been virtually destroyed, and 50-70% of coral reefs are threatened by human activities. We are at a pivotal point in history where the future of the oceans depends on our choices. In recognition both of the biological, social and economic value of reefs, and of the severe threats - which could destroy more than 60% of the worlds reef coverage within as little as 50 years - WWF has invested substantially in reef conservation through; marine protected areas, more sustainable fishing practices, increased awareness and education, combating the causes of global warming.
© Animal Planet
Animal Planet
© Animal Planet

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WWF and the University of Belize at Turneffe

Turneffe is part of the 700km Meso-American Reef. Located 45 km east of Belize City, the Turneffe Atoll is a discrete group of Cayes surrounded by its own living coral reef.

Approximately 48 kilometers long and 16 kilometers wide, Turneffe is the largest and most biologically diverse coral atoll in its hemisphere. It supports a number of threatened and endangered species, including American Saltwater Crocodiles and manatees. Turneffe is unique in that it is one of the few atolls in the Caribbean containing excellent reef development around its margins, as well as intact mangrove and sea-grass habitat in its interior.

Turneffe also provides jobs to thousands of local people, mainly in fishing. Because of the role of the reef in supporting the local economy, its protection is not only important for the conservation of marine life but also for the thousands of people that depend on it for their livelihoods.

WWF has been working here for several decades helping to reduce pollution and over-fishing and to establish a network of protected areas.
The University of Belize runs the Calabash Caye field station that is home to students, teachers and researchers from Belize and around the world. It’s currently the headquarters for the authorities in Belize to maintain the unique biodiversity of the Turneffe Islands atoll.
As part of all this work to protect Turneffe and its coral reefs, WWF and the University of Belize have secured funding for two new marine park rangers to be based at the Calabash Research station.

How you can help save American Saltwater Crocodiles and Coral Reefs

• Support WWF’s work on the ground http://www.panda.org/join
• Join Panda Passport, WWF’s online lobbying site http://www.passport.panda.org
• Don’t stand on coral when you’re swimming in reefs
• Don’t buy coral jewellery
• Ride your bike – global warming is killing coral reefs
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.