Daniel Beck (Biological Sciences), Rodrigo Tenteria-Valencia
Mexico is a diverse and wonderful place for cultures, biospheres, and organisms. Along the Costalegre region of Jalisco there is a vast expanse of habitat called the Chamela-Cuixmala Reserve. Located just south of the reserve is El Cocodrilario de La Manzanilla. El Cocodrilario means crocodile sanctuary, and at just over one 260 hectares, there isn’t much free space to spare for nearly 500 hatchlings to fully grown crocodiles. It is operated by a local cocodrilo enthusiast, Pepe Martinez, and was granted its space through the dictation of land action by the Mexican ejido system. Any visiting tourist can pay a fee and experience these behemoths gliding through the water under their feet, view them from a lofty sight tower, and even hold baby crocodiles guided by skilled biologists. El Cocodrilario encourages its municipal locals to visit at a mere fraction of the price in an effort to spread educational material and awareness about this widely feared reptile. This paper analyzes how the use of space balances a close, intimate understanding of crocodiles with a respectful distance and admiration for these creatures. Multiple intersections of bio-tourism, conservation, and preservation create the Cocodrilario’s unique environment. The integration of all three provide the resources for people to become educated about animals in a way that promotes a sustainable relationship between people and one of the world’s oldest apex predators.
Keywords: Sustainability, Conservation, Respect, Academic Service Learning, Diversity