BB B&WI recently received a phone call that we all dread.  One of my family members was sick, really sick.  Fortunately it wasn’t one of my immediate family members, but rather my extended family…my reptile family.  I have worked closely with a population of croc in the country of Costa Rica for almost a decade.  I know these crocs as individuals and they are truly like family to me.  I was terribly upset when I discovered that something was terribly wrong with them.  Sadly they were going blind.  I was determined to find out was horrible thing was causing this condition in my beloved crocs, so I immediately organized a “Dream Team” of scientists, biologists, toxicologists, and wildlife veterinarians, to accompany me to Costa Rica and research the problem.

Diagnosing an illness in a croc is similar to one in a human; it all starts with a physical examination.  The only problem is that gigantic wild crocs usually aren’t cooperative patients!  Croc physicals, as do humans, involve gathering important data such as length, weight, overall appearance, and visual inspection of eyes, ears, nose, and throat.  The most difficult part of the operation by far, is getting the weight.  Big crocs are unwilling participants and will not simply step upon the scale when asked.  Furthermore, there are few scales that can register such tremendous mass as a big croc, especially in the field upon a muddy river bank.  Therefore, this data is sorely lacking in scientific literature.  It is just too difficult/dangerous to get, though vitally important.  I was determined to overcome all obstacles and acquire this important data, especially if it could help my crocs.

My team attempted to do something that has rarely been accomplished: weigh full grown wild crocodiles in the field at their capture site.  We armed ourselves with strong climbing ropes of the finest quality, lots of cargo netting, chain, tackle, winches, and an industrial sized scale, normally used to weigh automobiles.  It would be quite an operation and definitely a spectacle.  Our first patient was a monster, literally, at over 16 feet long.  It was one of the largest crocs I have ever captured, there was to be no learning curve here!  The big boy was also blind in one eye, exactly the patient we were looking for.

hand injury 027After an epic battle, and one that cost me my right index finger, the croc was ours.  Unfortunately my finger became entangled in the rope during the battle, and as my Doctor described it, I experienced a catastrophic spiral fracture in my finger.  It was literally pulverized by the size, power, and mass of the croc.  Fortunately, a long surgery later in the day, and multiple titanium screws, rebuilt and saved my finger.  Undaunted by the mishap, me and team continued our directive.  We staggered, stumbled, and struggled through the thigh deep mud along the shoreline as we prepared the croc.  We drug, slide, pushed, and tugged the big croc across the mud towards an enormous tree that we felt could support his massive weight.  Positioned directly beneath its branches we fought to get the cargo net beneath him, that would act as a sling to hoist him into the air.

DSC_0297After a long, long, time and seemingly endless struggles, we were actually able to get the netting underneath the croc, the heavy chain, scale, and block and tackle into the tree, and miraculously in position to attempt this big experiment.  Everyone held their breath as we ever so slowly started winching the giant off the ground.  Our fascination soon became terror as the team ran for cover, in response to the creaking and splintering of wood above our heads.  The strong old tree was groaning behind such weight.  The ropes sang, chain clattered, cargo net popped, but lo and behold the behemoth lifted off the ground.  The monster was airborne!!  Only by a few inches but this baby was swaying in the breeze!

As crew members frantically screamed to check the scale, check the scale, and accurate reading was barked out.  The croc was quickly lowered back to the ground before the tree or our gear gave way.  Wow, we had done it.  The weight of our croc was 1600 hundred pounds one of the largest living crocs ever weighed in the field.  This was a great start to an epic research expedition.  If we could conquer this monumental challenge, I was fully confident that my Dream Team could correctly diagnose the problem and come up with a successful treatment for the eye affliction.