A BRITISH zookeeper nearly killed in a croc attack in Mexico has urged the authorities to protect the reptiles, saying: “It’s not the crocodiles’ fault”.
Now released from hospital, Melissa Laurie, 28, wishes to prevent another ordeal like she and her twin Georgia went through, which left her intubated and fighting for life in a coma.
After the authorities announced proposals to cull crocodiles following the attack, she has appealed to the Mexican government to protect them.
She spoke out from Puerto Escondido, Mexico, as The Sun identified the rogue tour guide, who led her and Georgia into croc-infested waters, as 35-year-old German national Recep Aydin.
Melissa said: “Just because a traumatic event like this has happened it doesn’t leave me wishing that the crocodiles pay the price.
“Crocodiles are the ultimate survivors. They are fascinating creatures. They’re nearly 200 million years old as a species. Essentially they’re living dinosaurs.
“I am extremely upset and angry by the proposal to cull the crocodile population. Why shoot them with guns when we could shoot them with cameras instead?”
The attack, on June 6, left Melissa in a medically induced coma with water-filled lungs and abdominal wounds that penetrated her stomach and gut, which led to sepsis.
It was the quick-thinking of twin Georgia, a certified divemaster, who saved her from the 10-foot croc by repeatedly “bashing it on the nose” as it tried to drag Melissa’s body underwater.
Georgia was left with lacerations on her hand and bite marks up her wrist, after the croc came at them three times.
Melissa, speaking of her sister’s heroic rescue, said: “It’s Georgia’s search and rescue training that came into play.
“I would hope it’s anyone’s instinct to think to do the same when it comes to fighting off a crocodile. You punch predators in the face.”
Melissa and Georgia insist that if they had seen a sign warning of crocodiles, they would have not entered the stream leading to the Manialtepec lagoon.
The lagoon, 12 miles outside of Puerto Escondido, features stunning blue bioluminescent waters – a big tourist attraction.
But the twins from Sandhurst, Berks., went on an unregulated tour arranged by a man who they only knew as ‘Richie’.
He repeatedly assured them it was safe to swim – despite the waters being a known nesting place for crocs.
Melissa now fears that “local Mexicans will be made to suffer” after authorities said they would be looking to “make an example” of the boat owner and boatmen.
The boathand, Moises Salinas, just 16, was instrumental in getting Melissa to the hospital in time to save her life.
Melissa said: “It’s how they put food on the table. It isn’t fair.”
She also hopes that the crocodiles will also be spared.
Melissa previously worked with giraffes, zebras, white rhino, and elephants at the Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire.
She said: “Wildlife conservation is extremely important to me.
“I have experience looking after and working with reptiles – snakes and bearded dragons and amphibians.”
She said that she had seen another crocodile swimming around months ago in Cancun, adding: “I thought ‘Wow! This is amazing’.”
But on the day of the attack, she did not get to see the glowing bioluminescent plankton.
She said: “If I knew the bioluminescence tour is carried out in a way which I think disturbs the wildlife like that, I wouldn’t have gone.
“We don’t know what sort of problems we are actually causing on an eco-level by disturbing their waters. And it sounds dangerous, actually.”
Julian Herrera, from the Puerto Escondido Secretary of Tourism, who accompanied Georgia and the twins’ parents on a tour last week, said that swimming in the lagoon might now be banned.
Melissa believes that would be the best solution “for the crocodiles and nature”.
The Animal Management graduate is one of at least 39 victims of crocodile attacks along the Oaxacan coast, in Mexico, since 2004.
Last week, a closed-door emergency meeting between more than 30 officials heard that each week they are called out to deal with crocodile problems.
Some proposed culling the crocodiles to help preserve tourism.
Local public security head Guillermo Silvan, said “similar programs have worked in Florida.”
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But Melissa said the focus should be on protecting the croc’s habitat.
In response to the attack, local authorities from the local department of public safety placed new signs on trees surrounding the lagoons warning: “Danger, crocodile area”.
Melissa added: “That is a good first step.”