WATCH: Jamaicans warned to stop feeding crocodiles
Jamaicans have been urged to exercise extreme caution in areas close to swamps, rivers, gullies and other known crocodile habitats, and to desist from feeding animals in light of a recent bloody encounter between humans and a crocodile in Hellshire, St Catherine.
The warning comes from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) after a video emerged of a man luring a large crocodile outside a pond and taunting the reptile with a piece of meat.
The video was purportedly shot in Hellshire.
"The situation in Portmore, Hellshire is a long-standing issue which goes back to the fact that Hellshire is built in a wetlands, and the crocodiles have been pushed back and gone into a decline because of their smaller habitat, and sometimes these animals venture into an area populated by humans," Ricardo Miller, coordinator of fauna in the ecosystem management branch at NEPA, told Loop News reporter Claude Mills.
"We want people to stop feeding these animals because we don't want them to associate people with food, and that is one of the issues we have been encountering in recent times."
NEPA is now in process of erecting black-and-yellow signs warning the public to be aware of potential crocodile activity in high visibility spots along the south coast.
Miller said it is not the mandate of NEPA to "relocate animals from areas close to humans" but to "conserve the species into perpetuity".
"An area or habitat can only sustain a limited number of crocodiles. We are seeing more reports of croc-human conflicts in and around the habitat in Hellshire. But we want to reassure the public that it is not unusual to see crocodiles in the sea. They use the sea a lot more than people realize because they are nocturnal animals, and often do so at nights. They move from Old Harbour to Hellshire and even down to St. Thomas, they do so pretty regularly, both males and females," Miller said.
Miller urged members of the public not to feed, or try to catch animals in a bid to gain fame or notoriety.
"Some people may want to appear brave or to come on TV, but that is an illegal act," he said.
It is an offence under the Wild Life Protection Act (WLPA) to possess, hunt, kill capture or willfully molest the crocodile. Individuals found guilty of the offence may be charged a maximum fine of $100,000 or face one year imprisonment.
NEPA is urging the public to report crocodile sightings by calling the Agency at 876-754-7540 or toll-free 888-991-5005. Individuals may also call 119 or make a report to the nearest police station.
The public is being reminded not to provoke crocodiles, as they may become defensive if cornered or attacked. Crocodiles are one of Jamaica’s many endangered animal species and are protected under law.
Miller also warned fishermen not to keep fish on their bodies while engaging in their craft.
"There was a case where a fishermen was spear-fishing in the Salt River and a crocodile attacked him and shook him until the fish fell off in the water, and then let him go and ate the fish. He was traumatised after that but the crocodile only attacked because the fish he caught had been bleeding all over him," he said.