Lessons Learned While Catching Crocodiles

Lessons Learned While Catching Crocodiles

Would you hold a live crocodile in your bare hands?

Would it help if you knew that you’re doing this so that the reptile can be measured and marked, so you can weigh it, name it and extract DNA from it, so the info can go into a database and when that very same crocodile is caught again in a year or ten, researchers would know exactly where this reptile had been before?

I didn’t think I’d ever say yes to that, however noble the purpose might be.

Granted, every single time I went kayaking in Belize—which was often, as I lived on a canal that connected to a large lagoon where I would go watch the sunset whenever I so desired—every single time I was on the water, I’d wish I’d see a crocodile. And I’d hope I wouldn’t. 

It’s kind of like the time in college when I did a 5-day hike in a forest in South Africa, a place where elephants roam. Every day as I put my pack on my back, I’d ask God to please let us see some elephants that day. And please not. Because African elephants aren’t anything like Asian elephants, the ones you might be used to seeing in pictures with folks riding on their backs or doing un-elephant-like tricks like painting and playing soccer. Those are Asian elephants. They’re smaller than their African cousins, and they have an entirely different temperament. 

So, back to the croc, I was holding, and the ones I was extracting DNA from: Those are not the equivalent of a docile, baby Asian elephant, all cute and clumsy. These little guys were feisty! And their teeth? While they won’t take off a finger, they can cut! Which is why the croc researchers put tape around the creatures’ mouths—for the protection of the humans involved. They also tape shut the eyes, but that’s for the protection of the reptile, to keep it calm and keep its body from secreting lactic acid due to stress. Because causing unnecessary stress like that would lead to the opposite of crocodile conservation.

Doing things that scare me in a good way like this, is invigorating to me! Not just so I can say I had done it, but for what I learn in the process.

In exchange for sacrificing several hours of sleep that night, I learned a ton about crocodilians! I learned that Belize has two kinds—American crocodiles, which are mostly found along the coast, and Morelet’s, which are mostly found inland, in fresh water. But since I lived on a peninsula and the lagoon had brackish water, the crocodilians in the area could be either, and sometimes they were a cross between the two species. 

That night, I learned how to distinguish between the types based upon the markings on the underside of their tails. I got to feel how incredibly soft the soles of their feet are. And I learned how to tag a crocodile with a specific numbering system where you cut off scales on their tails, scales that never grow back. Hence, if researchers were to capture the same crocodile several years later, they’d be able to look up the number in a database and learn about its age that way, and its movements, about its growth, and more.

My point is not to teach you about crocodile conservation, though I find it fascinating. My point is that it’s so easy to allow our fears to get in the way of embracing epic adventures. 

I’ll bet there are other opportunities you and I turn our backs on, listing a plethora of excuses. This could include:

  • choosing not to invite new friends over for dinner because …
  • choosing not to join a small group at church because …
  • choosing not to ask God for what we really desire because …
  • choosing not to …

Our circumstances might be different, but ultimately, you and I face choices every single day. How we choose to respond to those determines the stories we get to tell,

It was months after my crocodile adventure that I read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and thought again about the question of what sort of story I’d like to tell with my life.

You, my friend, get to tell a story with your life based on the choices you make. 

My invitation to you is this: to do some of the things you’ve been wanting to do—or the things you’ve been putting off doing…

Will you accept this invitation?

Tell us about it here, or hop over to our Facebook page and let us in on what you choose to do today! Or if the thing you chose to do wasn’t as easy or as fun or just not what you had hoped it would be, tell us how you choose to respond, what the next thing is that you’re choosing to do.

(If you want to learn more about the first invitation, click here.)

Are you in? Please let me know so I can cheer you on!

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