1. The Belize Travelcast
  2. Episode 13

Crocodile Research Coalition in Belize

Dr. Marisa Tellez 42 minutes

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Learn how the great great granddaughter of Pancho Villa's medicine woman is now saving the crocodiles in Belize. In this episode, we welcome Dr. Marisa Tellez and Ms. Darcy Uclez from the Crocodile Research Coalition, a non-profit organization based in southern Belize that seeks to preserve crocodiles and their environments. Dr. Tellez and Darcy gives us an overview of the research and education work and some insights into their future plans for a wildlife clinic at their newly acquired property on the Placencia lagoon in southern Belize.

Tune in to learn why Dr. Tellez blames her dad for the conservation work she is so passionate about. She also talks about her inspiration by Steve Irwin, the famed conservationist from Australia. She tells us about her journey and why she ended up in Belize to pursue her passion. Dr. Tellez speaks about her innate passion for healing which she traces all the way back to her great great grandmother who was the medicine woman for Pancho Villa, the famed Mexican revolutionary and guerrilla leader.

In the second segment of this episode, we meet Darcy Uclez who is the program coordinator at the CRC. Darcy is originally from Roatan Honduras and moved with her family to Belize at the age of 5. She grew up and still lives in the village of Seine Bight, a small village on the Placencia peninsula. Darcy tells us about her love of animals and why she left her job as an Architect to become a volunteer at the CRC. She now manages the day to day operation at the CRC as the program coordinator, including the Next Gen Croc eco club for kids that is an educational outreach to teach the children in Seine Bight and Placencia villages about the importance of conserving wildlife and the environment. Darcy invites everyone interested in conservation to reach out to her to talk about volunteer opportunities at the CRC.

Tune in to learn about these fascinating animals and why they're so important to the environment and why the CRC also engages in bird counts and other conservation activities. Crocodiles have the strongest jaw power in the world, and along with the Jaguars, they are an important animal in Maya ideology. The Maya believed that the world rested on a huge crocodile which in turn floated in a vast lagoon. The Lamanai Maya site in Orange Walk (northern Belize) is the most well-known site where we see evidence of how the crocodile was revered by the Maya. Lamanai is the Maya word for “submerged crocodile.”  The name Lamanai helps to explain the numerous crocodile motifs at the site. Crocodile effigies appear on figurines, vessel decorations, and on the large headdress on a limestone mask at one of the principal structures at the Lamanai site.

The Crocodile Research Coalition (CRC) is engaged in very important conservation work in Belize. They offer volunteer opportunities to anyone who may be interested in conservation efforts. They are based in the Placencia Peninsula of Belize.

The CRC was established in January 2016 and its mission is to preserve crocodiles and their environments throughout Central America and the Caribbean to ensure the long-term sustainability of biodiversity in the region.

The CRC works with local communities in Belize and other partner organizations to empower people with the knowledge of co-existence and sustainable practices to ensure the survival of crocodiles and the well-being of the communities that live beside them.

Their outreach also incorporates working with the local and national governments, utilizing our research to better inform policy decisions regarding wildlife and their habitat.

Visit the CRC Website for more information.

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Dr. Marisa Tellez

At an age when most girls were playing with dolls, Dr. Marisa Tellez was developing knowledge of the world’s top predators as she knew at a young age she wanted to be an advocate and leader in the conservation of the world’s apex predators, particularly crocodiles. Books, television, and local wildlife facilities were the only outlets for her to “experience” crocodiles given she was growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California. After receiving a BA in Cultural Anthropology and a BS in Zoology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2005, Marisa finally got her hands-on experience with crocodilians at the Eco-station in Culver City, California, and soon after began working at the Los Angeles Zoo. It was working at the zoo that she realized she wanted to head back to school and truly pursue scientific research with crocodilians, particularly investigating their interaction with parasites.

Marisa received a Master’s (2010) and PhD (2014) from the University of California, Los Angeles studying the interaction between parasites and crocodilians, publishing a book and various scientific publications.

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