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How to Lasso a Mexican Crocodile—at Night

Join conservationists as they pilot a small boat in a pitch black lagoon to capture and study an elusive reptilian predator.

Watch Scientists Catch Crocodiles—in the Dark

Deep in the lagoons of the Yucatán Peninsula lives the powerful and elusive Morelet's crocodile, which is crucial to the health of the local ecosystem. A group of Mexican scientists embarks on a nighttime venture to capture the reptiles and study their well-being. Although the crocodiles can navigate the dark lagoons with ease, the scientists have a harder time with the low visibility and dense mangroves—and with the quick reflexes of their targets.

While most people go out of their way to avoid carnivorous reptiles, two Mexican conservationists actively seek them out. Watch in this video as they pilot a small boat through a lagoon in the pitch-black night, searching for their quarry: the Morelet’s crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii).

For the past 25 years Amigos de Sian Ka’an—one of the leading environmental groups in Mexico—has been monitoring the species’ population and habitat with a capture and release program.

At a “mere” 10 feet in length, the Morelet’s crocodile is smaller than its U.S. cousin—but no less aggressive. The animals are most active at night, but the only way to see them in the dark is by spotting light reflecting in their eyes.

Sometimes the crocodiles can be beckoned from a resting place with vocal signals. The Morelet’s uses an extensive array of sounds for communication—and conservationists have learned to mimic the sounds, as they show in the video.