Crocodile sighting causes flurry in Hanover
Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator
The presence of crocodiles, which have made a section of the Lucea East River near the old Kew Bridge in Hanover their residence, has been causing much excitement and amusement in the community over the past few weeks.
Speculation is rife about the exact number of crocodiles that residents say have converged at the bridge, with some claiming the figure to be anywhere between two and six.
When Western Focus visited the area recently, residents were sitting on the bridge, apparently waiting to see whether any of the reptiles would emerge from the river.
One resident, Beverly Gordon, told Western Focus that she was fearful that the reptiles could take away small children and said she hoped the environmental authorities would remove them from the area quickly. She described two of the crocodiles as a "big one" and a little "pretty-pretty" one.
"Police come and say nobody no fi do nothing to dem because if dem kill dem, (crocodiles) dem will inna problem. To tell you the truth, it betta dem tek dem out a di river because the children can sit down and them approach from nowhere and tek dem weh, and den di parents no know where dem disappear gone. Dem a go say a people pass inna vehicle and gone wid dem when a crocodile gone wid dem. So me no feel to myself say dem fi stay inna di water no longer," Gordon said.
But another resident, Crystal Bowman, said she did not see the creatures as a threat as, in her opinion, they did not appear to be hostile and the river was not heavily used.
"About three weeks ago, my brother saw the crocodiles and him call people and show dem and dem look. Some did believe him and some neva believe him until dem see it. Me did believe because me hear say them used to be there long time ago. Me no go dung deh (river). Nobody no really go dung deh. A jus some likkle pickney come sometime and some people come dig out crab, and so on. People swim from down the sea and come shoot fish," she said.
"As far as how me see, it is not like dem a come up and a trouble nobody. A dem (people) a go dung inna di river deh provoke di crocodile dem. Dem jus inna di water. Mi naw see like nobody inna di water and dem woulda deh rush dem," she added.
Bowman's observations are in keeping with a 2006 paper prepared by Dion Kelly of the Life Sciences Department of the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, which noted that the American Crocodile, Crocodylus Acutus, the largest reptile in Jamaica, is shy, even as they remain one of, if not, the most vilified species in the island.
"In spite of its threatened status, the American Crocodile is often injured or killed," Kelly said. "The general public's belief in Jamaica is that crocodiles are dangerous animals, which are a continuous threat (often based solely on its carnivorous appearance), and should be killed. In reality, the American Crocodile is one of the shyest of the crocodilian species. They will often shun confrontations unless molested or attacked. Nesting adult female crocodiles are, however, more aggressive during nesting periods (March to June each year) as they try to protect their nest and young."
One middle-aged man who was also spotted at the Kew Bridge and who gave his name as 'Nampa', said an elderly fisherman told him decades ago that he had spotted crocodiles in the river, some of which had become entangled in his fishing nets.
"One fisherman said the crocodile used to mash up him fishing net long time ago. I lived in Lucea all my life, and I used to travel along the river bank and never see them, so I come to the bridge today to see if I can see them. One man used to raise crocodile at Long Acres, but dem escape. Dem escape, and because dem can't stand the sea water, dem come here," he said.
Kelly stated in the UWI document that "the majority of crocodile populations in Jamaica inhabit the wetlands (mangrove swamps, marshes) and rivers along the southern coast of the island - areas such as the Black River Great Morass and Milk River and north coast" and that "there are, however, a few small, isolated populations in parishes such as Hanover and Trelawny".
"The crocodile is important in its ecosystem both as a scavenger and a top predator. It helps to maintain healthy biological diversity through the removal of slow or diseased individuals from prey (e.g. fish) populations. Crocodile wading ponds also provide a source of water for many species during times of drought or little rainfall. Its role is not only limited to aiding other fauna, but it also contributes to the economies of several countries," the document said.