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3 Killer Nile Crocodiles Captured Near Miami, More of Species Likely in Florida

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3 Killer Nile Crocodiles Captured Near Miami, More of Species Likely in Florida

The Burmese python may no longer be Florida’s scariest invasive species.

Researchers have confirmed that three Nile crocodiles were captured near Miami, and they say it’s possible more of the man-eating reptiles are still out there.

The big question now: How did they get to Florida?

“They didn’t swim from Africa,” University of Florida herpetologist Kenneth Krysko said. “But we really don’t know how they got into the wild.”

Krysko and his co-authors just published a paper showing that DNA testing proved the three animals captured in 2009, 2011 and 2014 are Nile crocs, a species whose males grow to over 16 feet long and weigh upward of 1,600 pounds. Nile crocs are believed to be responsible for up to 200 fatalities annually in their native sub-Saharan Africa. Compare that with an annual average of six reported shark attack deaths globally.

Krysko, who works at UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History, said the captured crocodiles matched genetically, meaning they are related to one another, but didn’t match Nile crocs kept at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and other licensed Florida attractions.

That means the crocs probably were brought to Florida illegally by an unlicensed reptile collector who either didn’t contain them properly, allowing them to escape, or, more sinisterly, planted them in the Everglades in hopes they would multiply.

The Nile croc, if it became established in the Everglades, would pose another invasive threat to its teetering ecosystem. Through crossbreeding, they could endanger the smaller, less aggressive American crocodiles, which have never been responsible for a confirmed human death in the U.S.

About 1,000 American crocodiles live in South Florida, mostly in mangroves and estuaries. Any hybrids would degrade the genetic integrity of the endangered American variety.

Nile crocs also are known to attack livestock, which would be bad news for cattle farms that border the Everglades.

Krysko and two co-authors, independent wildlife biologist Joe Wasilewski and UF wildlife ecology professor Frank Mazzotti, think more Nile crocs lurk unfound in the Everglades, but they aren’t certain.

Allyson Gantt, a spokeswoman for Everglades National Park, where one of the reptiles was found, disagrees, saying no Nile crocs still roam the park.

Some Everglades visitors might not be aware of the differences between crocodiles and alligators, complicating efforts to confirm any remaining crocs. Crocodiles have angular snouts, and their lower teeth are exposed when their mouths are closed. Alligator snouts are rounded, with few exposed lower teeth. Nile crocs are usually bronze or brownish yellow; alligators are blackish green.

Wasilewsi said people are likely to notice the difference, or at least take photos that researchers can check later. And no, crocs and alligators can’t interbreed.

Florida already has more non-native amphibians and reptiles than any region worldwide, according to the UF paper, published April 30 in Herpetological Conservation and Biology. They include Burmese pythons, a menace that quickly reproduced into the thousands and is decimating the Everglades’ small mammal population.

Giant toads, iguanas and another species of crocodilian, the spectacled caiman, also live in the state. But that species grows to only about 80 pounds and feeds on fish, crustaceans and the occasional small mammals.

All three Nile crocodiles were captured in extreme South Florida.

— The first, a hatchling, was found on a front porch and sent to a Louisiana reptile exhibit.

— The second, a female measuring 4 feet, was captured at a park. Wasilewski kept it, but later gave it to another licensed researcher.

— The third was captured twice. The first trapper didn’t have the proper permit, so he released the female. The croc was recaptured two years later 18 miles away by water in Everglades National Park. It was euthanized.

The UF paper said all Florida wetlands and coastal areas of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas would be hospitable to Nile crocodiles. They require fresh water, abundant prey and year-round warm weather.

“Doesn’t that sound like Florida?” Krysko said.

Fortunately, Nile crocodiles don’t reproduce rapidly. Still, the researchers said, it might only take one adult male and female finding each other for an Everglades population to become established.

“I have two words: Burmese python,” Wasilewski said. “If you would have told me 15 years ago we would have an established population in the Everglades, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

Entrepreneur, contributor, writer, and editor of Sostre News. With a powerful new bi-lingual speaking generation by his side, Sostre News is becoming the preferred site for the latest in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Culture, Tech, Breaking and World News.

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Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting

Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.

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Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting

Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.

In the operation, dubbed “Operation Child Protector,” undercover officers posed as 13- and 14-year-old children on social media and online dating apps between July 27 and Aug. 1.

The undercovers made contact with each of the suspects before proposing they meet at a location in Polk County, where they were busted.

In total, the arrests led to 49 felony and two misdemeanor charges. Those arrested were aged 26 to 47. All were from Central Florida except for one 33-year-old man from California.

“What you see on this board … are deviants. Incredible deviants,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference on Tuesday, motioning to photos of the alleged pervs. “They travel from as far away as Clewiston, Florida. One even came from Los Angeles.”

“Much to their chagrin, instead of meeting with young children, they were met by law enforcement officers who were online undercover posing as children.”

Kenneth Javier Aquino, 26, a lifeguard at Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World, was arrested while still wearing his Disney polo shirt and swimsuit, according to the sheriff’s office.

Aquino engaged in an online conversation on social media with an officer, posing as a 13-year-old girl, authorities said. He then asked the “girl” to send photos, and sent her an explicit video of himself, police said.

Aquino told officers he is a Navy veteran and has a pregnant girlfriend.

Jonathan McGrew, a 34-year-old custodian at Disney World, was nabbed by an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.

disney-world

McGrew allegedly told the “girl” that he wanted her to come over and have sex with him and his girlfriend, 29-year-old Savannah Lawrence, who also works as a custodian at tourist mecca.

McGrew sent her explicit videos of him and Lawrence performing sexual acts on each other, authorities said.

A rep for Disney World didn’t immediately return a message.

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China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus

China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.

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China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus

China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.

He began experiencing nausea, vomiting, fever and neurological issues, and died in May.

Blood and saliva samples were tested and researchers in April found evidence of the Monkey B virus, also known as the herpes B virus.

Researchers said a male doctor and female nurse who were in close contact with the victim tested negative for the virus.

The Monkey B virus is prevalent among macaque monkeys but infection among humans is extremely rare. Since the virus was identified in 1932, just 50 cases have been reported, with the majority of those in North America. Untreated B virus infections in humans are serious, however, with a fatality rate of about 80 percent.

Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, and progress to more serious complications such as swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

Laboratory workers and veterinarians in close contact with the animals are most at risk as people typically get infected with the virus if they are bitten or scratched by an infected macaque, or have contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose or mouth.

But the virus is unlikely to mutate in a way that poses a problem to the general population. Just one case of human-to-human transmission of the virus has ever been documented.

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U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

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U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

In New York, a dispute over coronavirus-safety precautions is leading to split-screen remembrances Friday, one at the Sept. 11 memorial plaza at the World Trade Center and another on a nearby corner. The Pentagon’s observance will be so restricted that not even victims’ families can attend, though small groups can visit the memorial there later in the day.

Trump and Biden are both headed — at different times — to the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Trump is speaking at the morning ceremony, the White House said. Biden plans to pay respects there in the afternoon after attending the observance at the 9/11 memorial in New York.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is also due at ground zero — and then at the alternate ceremony a few blocks away.

In short, the anniversary of 9/11 is a complicated occasion in a maelstrom of a year, as the U.S. grapples with a health crisis, searches its soul over racial injustice and prepares to choose a leader to chart a path forward.

Still, 9/11 families say it’s important for the nation to pause and remember the hijacked-plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the trade center, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001, shaping American policy, perceptions of safety and daily life in places from airports to office buildings.

“I know that the heart of America beats on 9/11 and, of course, thinks about that tragic day. I don’t think that people forget,” says Anthoula Katsimatides, who lost her brother John and is now on the board of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum.

Friday will mark Trump’s second time observing the 9/11 anniversary at the Flight 93 memorial, where he made remarks in 2018. Biden spoke at the memorial’s dedication in 2011, when he was vice president.

The ground zero ceremony in New York has a longstanding custom of not allowing politicians to speak, though they can attend. Biden did so as vice president in 2010, and Trump as a candidate in 2016.

Though the candidates will be focused on the commemorations, the political significance of their focus on Shanksville is hard to ignore: Pennsylvania is a must-win state for both. Trump won it by less than a percentage point in 2016.

Around the country, some communities have canceled 9/11 commemorations because of the pandemic, while others are going ahead, sometimes with modifications.

The New York memorial is changing one of its ceremony’s central traditions: having relatives read the names of the dead, often adding poignant tributes.

Thousands of family members are still invited. But they’ll hear a recording of the names from speakers spread around the vast plaza, a plan that memorial leaders felt would avoid close contact at a stage but still allow families to remember their loved ones at the place where they died.

But some victims’ relatives felt the change robbed the observance of its emotional impact. A different 9/11-related group, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, set up its own, simultaneous ceremony a few blocks away, saying there’s no reason that people can’t recite names while keeping a safe distance.

The two organizations also tussled over the Tribute in Light, a pair of powerful beams that shine into the night sky near the trade center and evoke its fallen twin towers. The 9/11 memorial initially canceled the display, citing virus-safety concerns for the installation crew. After the Tunnel to Towers Foundation vowed to put up the lights instead, the memorial changed course with help from its chairman, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Tunnel to Towers, meanwhile, arranged to display single beams for the first time at the Shanksville memorial and the Pentagon.

Over the years, the anniversary also has become a day for volunteering. Because of the pandemic, the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance organization is encouraging people this year to make donations or take other actions that can be accomplished at home.

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