Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Touch of the Blue Crocodile

There's a new feature-length crocodile documentary on its way called "Touch of the Blue Crocodile". I've seen the trailer, which you can view after the break below, and it looks excellent. The film-makers play on the traditional fear that many people feel about crocodiles, and then they turn it completely on its head. It encapsulates the issues surrounding wild crocodiles living increasingly close to people, and confronts you with two very different sides to the argument. I particularly like the way it gets back to the notion of the crocodile as a mythical creature, with all the benefits and drawbacks that entails.

After the jump, the trailer and more about the documentary.

The entire feature is the work of just two people, Petr Tomaides (who directed it) and Petr Myska. It took them nearly three years to make, charting a journey along Mexico's western coast searching for the legendary "blue crocodile". Although the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) is the subject, the story revolves around relationships between people and crocodiles, and wonders why a creature that was once venerated and worshipped is now largely despised.

Petr and Petr just finished the feature this month, although the trailer has been around for over a year. Right now they're looking for broadcasters and distributors who might be interested in getting this fascinating-looking documentary out there. I can't wait to see the finished thing, although if you're in Chiapas, Mexico, there's going to be a showing on 24 February. You can find all the details about the film at its website (English | Spanish  | Czech).


marksmagula said...

It looks like a fascinating documentary. I hope they have much success with it. I recently wrote an article about American crocodiles and alligators in S. Florida for "Weekly Southern Arts". Focusing in part on the veracity of the MonsterQuest piece regarding super-crocs in the Everglades. If you're interested the link is here. http://www.weeklysouthernarts.com/crocodiles-and-alligators-in-florida-monsters-in-our-backyard.html

allan said...

Adam, what do you make of this Costa Rican crocodile "Poncho" and the guy who would "play" with him (Gilberto Shedden) in the water? I have watched numerous video clips of this, showing this guy splashing around with Poncho who is a fairly big American crocodile and I can't quite get my head around this. This looks like the most dangerous behavior a person could engage in. He says they are friends and it is "play"... I don't get it. Its at least 10 or 12 feet long and it doesn't object to being pushed and rolled around- in the water- by a person. Could a croc recognize a person and designate that person as "not on the menu" ? Here is one link if you aren't familiar:

Adam Britton said...

Hi Allen, I think it's awesome that Gilberto has such a relationship with that crocodile. It's rare to see, but it's not that surprising - crocs can in some situations become totally habituated to people, to such an extent that any aggressive or feeding behaviour becomes suppressed. One of our female crocodiles displays Poncho-like tendencies, insofar as I can interact with her on a basic level (touching her tail, body, head) without any negative reaction unless there's food around. She was also "rescued" in a way, brought back from the brink of starvation before we got her, and it has probably permanently affected her behaviour. Whether Poncho is similar in that regard I can't say as I don't know the history behind it, but it's one possibility. It may also simply be hard work and dedication by Gilberto to habituate the crocodile to his presence. Poncho may well view Gilberto as just another crocodile, not a threat, not as food, just there. The crocodile might even be submissive towards him, there are various possibilities. Size isn't always the be all, end all with crocs in social situations.

There are many examples where people have "tamed" crocodiles to varying degrees, although few are of Poncho's size. The reasons behind that "taming" can vary, but it's certainly possible with at least some individuals.

Disposition varies enormously between different crocs. Some are hopelessly aggressive, supremely confident or highly-strung, others are calm to the point of being overly submissive, and various factors contribute to an animal's disposition. How they were raised, genetic factors, stress levels, hunger, temperature, familiarity, and quite a few other things can influence their behaviour. Gilberto has clearly spent a lot of time with that crocodile, has learned to read its disposition and emotional state, has learned what signals to avoid, etc. It's easy to say that the crocodile "trusts" Gilberto, and to some extent that's probably true (Gilberto certainly trusts the crocodile!) but any way you look at it, it's very cool.

Our understanding of crocodiles has long been tethered to the notion that they're "killing machines" without mercy, etc etc. This is a very old-fashioned and inaccurate way of looking at crocodiles, which are complex creatures capable of learning and exhibiting different emotional states. Now that people are looking at them with fresh eyes, we're learning a lot more about them.

allan said...

It is awesome. I'd seen people around some crocodilians that were "used to" people in the sense that they were not spooked by human presence, after living in captivity, but I never thought it went beyond that. Also there is the occasional horror story about the ""pet" owner who trusts too much and gets their hand chomped on, etc. I suppose the Poncho / Gilberto situation is one where the dials are set just right. Interesting stuff. Thanks for the detailed answer!