Abstract

We present the conservation status and ecological characteristics (distribution, habitat preference, reproduction, population size, and structure) of an American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) population associated with the naval base “TN Tomas Vega” in Turiamo Bay, Aragua state, Venezuela. The sheltered coastal habitats, with freshwater or brackish water, as San Miguel River of Turiamo Bay, provide essential nursery habitats for hatchling American Crocodiles. During the breeding season, we looked for signs of nesting activity; however, because of continuous military exercises in the area, it is currently not known where nesting occurs. Based upon spotlight surveys of 6.7 km of survey routes, the resident American Crocodile population of Turiamo Bay was estimated at 38 American Crocodiles. Of this population, 6 sightings were classified as eyeshine only, 11 as class I, 14 as class II, 6 as class III, and 1 as class IV, exhibiting differential habitat association according to the size class. Encounter rates were highest in the brackish lagoon and low in the west coast and the San Miguel River, possibly because of the activities of the naval base causing evasive behavior by American Crocodiles. Our results indicate the C. acutus population in Turiamo Bay has been relatively stable in the past few years. However, it is important to accurately estimate the population size of C. acutus and protect the nesting and nursery habitats. Therefore, we recommend continuation of the population studies and involvement of environmental organizations to regulate anthropogenic activities in Turiamo Bay.

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