A plea from a wildlife warrior on behalf of another

Meet Shawn. Shawn is an American. But I won’t hold that against him. Because other than being an American, Shawn is a diehard wildlife warrior.

Some of you out there might recognize Shawn from NatGeo’s “Python hunters” or from other TV-appearances. Me on the other hand met Shawn during a crocodile conference in South Africa in 2016. Despite me being a rookie asking all kinds of entry level questions among all these crocodile professionals, Shawn never turned away from even my simplest (dumbest) question. And since meeting Shawn he has helped me countless times in my quest to become a crocodile specialist myself.

Now on the other hand it’s my turn to try to help Shawn out. In addition to appearing on TV and helping rookie herpetologists, Shawn is a devoted wildlife biologist. He travels the world helping to set up conservation projects, doing research, and conducting outreach in areas where people live with crocodiles and other potentially dangerous reptiles. He is also the creator of Crocfest, a festival where the profit in its entirety is donated to a crocodile related conservation and research project.

More devoted than most, a few years back he bought a piece of deforested land right on the Tarcoles River in Costa Rica which he turned in to “Croclandia – The American Crocodile Sanctuary”. By planting more than 300,000 native plants and trees, Shawn and his volunteers started turning a piece of ecologically low-function wetland back into a beautiful piece of functional rainforest again, a safe haven for one of the most threatened species of crocodilian, as well as pristine gardens for tropical birds and butterflies. With walking paths for visitors secured with eco-friendly fencing developed by Shawn himself, large pools intended to keep nuisance crocodiles out of harms way, and education schemes developed for the locals, Croclandia was only a few weeks away from opening to the public.

Then in October 2017 Tropical Storm “Nate” hit. And hit hard. With large areas in Costa Rica ending up in ruins. Among those areas were The American Crocodile Sanctuary. Years of hard work by Shawn and his volunteers were wiped away by the rising river, drowning everything in silt and garbage from the flooded towns and cities upstream. Trees, bushes and buildings blown to bits by the raging winds. Shawn literally watched his life’s work, all his money and his dream float away down the Tarcoles river and into the brown abyss of the flood water.

Thousands of hours of work gone. All in the span of just a few hours.

A couple of the beautiful landscaped ponds before storm Nate. (Photos courtesy of Shawn Heflick)
A couple of the beautiful landscaped ponds before storm Nate. (Photos courtesy of Shawn Heflick)

Just a example of some of the couple destruction caused by storm Nate. (Photos courtesy of Shawn Heflick).
Just a example of some of the couple destruction caused by storm Nate. (Photos courtesy of Shawn Heflick).

My plea for you is that you watch this short video Shawn and his crew made during the aftermath of tropical storm “Nate” and listen to his words. 

I know Shawn well enough that this will not be the end of his quest to save those animals feared and misunderstood by many humans, but please consider helping in any way you can. Either by volunteering your time, sharing this post or by chipping in financially through this Gofundme set up to help rebuild the sanctuary.

Thank you for your time and please don’t hesitate to make contact if you have any questions.


About Joe Kristoffer Partyka 12 Articles
Joe is something of an odd crossover between the world of natural sciences and the liberal arts. After completing a BSc in conflict history from the University of Oslo, Joe transferred into the world of natural sciences. First he studied for his BSc in Biology at the same university, and later he completed his MSc in tropical ecology at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences working with crocodiles in Belize. Joes main interests are mostly related to large predators, their behavior, interactions with humans, and anything relating to their biology and physiology. Basically, if it’s big and potentially dangerous, Joe finds it interesting. Luckily all his interests came together as he now works with mediation of the interhuman conflicts in Norway, so called human-predator conflict, as a predator consultant and communications professional.
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