National Geographic : 2018 Jun
DD: When people see the image of the crocodile behind Jennifer, reactions include wonder, awe, and horror. But after a few frames the croc, unimpressed with us, drifted downstream on its way to do other crocodile things. We continued our quest for jellyfish. JH: Many people ask if I’m angry that David took a picture instead of trying to “save” me. My answer is this: I would have been unhappy if he had not taken the photos. I was a visitor in this creature’s environment, and it was compelled to investigate. This is what I hope for on assignment—I’m not afraid but thrilled to see such an ancient creature. DD: There is always risk in our line of work. Jen- nifer and I have aborted many dives with aggressive animals—for our safety and theirs. But this encounter reinforced the good news that we saw all around us in Gardens of the Queen. The crocodile is an indicator species, a symbol of a healthy marine ecosystem that can support apex predators (unlike overfished and degraded areas elsewhere in the Caribbean). This preserve is a conservation success because it is actively patrolled and protected. The easing of travel restrictions is bound to bring more tourists— so it’s vital to maintain a balance among ecotourism, exploration, and conservation. That’s possible if visitors adopt the same philosophy that we hold toward that curious crocodile and every other marine creature. We enter Earth’s oceans on their terms, not our own. Marine biologist Jennifer Hayes and photographer David Doubilet are award-winning collaborators. Doubilet is a Rolex ambassador and a participant in the new partnership Rolex and National Geographic have formed. Its motto, “Committed to a Perpetual Planet,” reflects its mission: to promote conservation and exploration of Earth’s oceans, poles, and mountains.