QCOSTARICA – Until 2018, the community of Ortega de Bolsón, in Santa Cruz, Guanacaste, the 200-year-old tradition of the “lagarteada”, that consists of the capture of a living specimen of crocodile or alligator (called by the inhabitants “lagarto”) on Good Friday.
In 2018, the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación (Sinac) – National System of Conservation Areas – began enforcing the Ley de Conservación de Vida Silvestre (Wildlife Conservation Law), on the basis that the action of removing crocodiles from their habitat and capturing them is considered hunting.
In the traditional “Lagarteada”, the locals seize the animal and transport it through the town in a kind of procession and is normally release the next day.
Hunting of wild species in our country is only allowed in cases where population control is being carried out. Failure to comply is punishable by one to three years in prison, if the hunted animals are declared in danger of extinction or with a reduced population, such as in the case of crocodiles.
Although this event is justified by the members of this Guanacaste community as a traditional activity, it goes against national and international regulations, according to the Sinac. “It should also be considered that no animal should be subjected to mistreatment or cruel acts. And that no animal should be exploited for human recreation,” the Sinac said in a statement back in 2018 when it put an end to the practice.
On Friday, while carrying out a control and surveillance operation in that community, in conjunction with officers of the Fuerza Publica (National Police), Sinac officials were alerted by residents, where, apparently, the crocodile was captured hours before by unknown subjects (unsubs), who later abandoned it at the site during the early hours of Friday morning.
“The crocodile was immobilized by Sinac officials using the appropriate techniques, who minutes later released it into its natural habitat,” said the institution.
“Although the crocodile was safely returned to its natural habitat, there is concern about the risk that an animal like this entails being taken to an abandoned infrastructure, where children or someone else who used the site for other activities could have entered,” added Sinac authorities.
While the intention of the capture is not to hurt the animal, that was not always the end result.
Just one year before the ban, one of the animals captured by the participants had died of suffocation, vomiting with its snout tied. Some 3,000 people participated in the 2017 event.
There are various sources on the origin of the lagarteada.
The area where the town is settled was previously inhabited by Chorotega tribes. The crocodile was a sacred totem for some pre-Hispanic cultures in Costa Rica, a symbol of the fertility of the land and death.
For the Mexicas, the lizard as a sacred animal was venerated between March 21 and April 7. Among the Chorotegas, a people of Mesoamerican culture, the crocodile was a sacred and magical animal.
After the Spanish Conquest, there was a syncretism between the sacrifice of this sacred animal and the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday.