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US surfer loses leg in Tamarindo crocodile attack

A U.S. tourist had his right leg amputated Friday afternoon after a crocodile attacked him near the Playa Grande estuary in Tamarindo, Guanacaste. The surfer, 59-year-old John Becker, also sustained minor injuries to his face and lost large quantities of blood. He remains in critical condition at the Enrique Baltodano Hospital in Liberia.

This is the third and most severe attack on a surfer near the estuary in the last three years. In March 2015 a surfer from Montreal was bitten on the foot and sustained minor injuries, and in 2013 a 7-foot croc scratched a Spanish surfer.

Members of the Tamarindo Development Association have been in meetings with the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) and police officials since the attack to determine a course of action.

After the attack last March, the association pushed SINAC to consider removing certain crocodiles from the river mouth. Because the estuary is part of the Las Baulas National Marine Park, a protected area, environmental regulations prohibit the removal of crocodiles without a study that shows there is overpopulation.

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As a compromise, SINAC officials replaced crocodile warning signs that had been stolen and promised to study the behavior of the area’s crocodiles to prevent future attacks.

SINAC officials also warned the crocodiles tend to leave the estuary in the early morning and late afternoon. Becker was attacked at around 7 a.m.

The development association is not the only group concerned about crocodile attacks. In 2014, the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotel Owners wrote an open letter to the Environment Ministry expressing concern over a growing number of crocodiles spotted on tourist beaches. Following Friday’s attack, the chamber’s president, Gustavo Araya, released another statement asking for population controls.

“I hope that two years after expressing my discontent about the lack of attention on this subject, after not assuming any responsibility and after arriving at this sad occurrence, that the respective government agencies will take action and not continue to ignore the problem,” Araya wrote.

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