The American crocodile is a species widely distributed in the coastal regions of the continent, both on the Pacific coast and in the Caribbean. This species commonly inhabits rivers, lakes, estuaries, swamps, river mouths, beaches, both in fresh and salt water.
In Costa Rica, during the past century, illegal hunting led the crocodile to near extinction, for which it is protected by national legislation; Since then, studies show that their populations have recovered satisfactorily.
Some of the largest crocodile populations in Costa Rica are found in the North, Central Pacific, and Central Caribbean. In these areas, there has also been growth of the human population, advance of the agricultural frontier, in addition to the development of numerous tourist activities.
These habitat modifications appear to have provided new conditions for the establishment of crocodiles in these areas, increasing conflict and human-crocodile encounters.
It has been found that the presence of crocodiles is being common in urbanized areas and even where there have been reductions in forest cover, as this reptile is an opportunistic species, it may be benefiting from human demographic growth, the advance of the agricultural frontier and urban pressure, so it could be finding easy-to-catch prey such as domestic animals in areas with a high presence of towns.
Undoubtedly, these situations may be generating important conflicts between humans and crocodiles, which may be associated with new conditions that occur in areas with human activities.
We have found areas with high potential to be inhabited by crocodiles on both sides of the country, for the Pacific side these areas coincide in the north with the Tempisque River and its tributary rivers, in the Central Pacific to areas near the city of Puntarenas, Parrita and Quepos, in the South Pacific area, in Sierpe as well as some areas associated with the Sierpe-Térraba Wetland.
For the Caribbean slope, the areas with high potential to be inhabited by crocodiles have been identified in places close to the coast, mainly in the Caribbean, as this fairly flat slope has good conditions for the presence of bodies of water and therefore of crocodiles, towns such as Siquirres, Bataan, La Rita Cariari, in the North area towns such as Horquetas, Agua Zarcas, Pital, Cureña, Los Chiles and areas near Caño Negro present adequate conditions for the presence of crocodiles.
This poses a challenge for the management of possible conflicts, since many of these areas have been recognized as population centers and important sites for national and international tourism.
To reduce conflicts, it is necessary the commitment of government authorities, generate information on the size of crocodile populations in the country, and with this information generate a crocodile management plan that allows the reduction of incidents in these areas, guarantee the conservation of the species, protect the inhabitants and tourists of these areas and above all protect human life.