It is the stuff of nightmares: a lake is stained red with blood of slaughtered pigs which is attracting hundreds of man-eating crocodiles who prowl a nearby neighbourhood and family kill dogs.

Those who live along the shore next to the lagoon can do little but watch as the crocodiles snatch their treasured livestock and pets – and pray their children won’t be next.

The Lake of Blood, as the locals call it, has attracted 300 deadly crocodiles since a nearby slaughterhouse began dumping pigs’ blood and offal into the water.

It is here in Chetumal, 200 miles south of Cancun on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast, the reptiles raise their young, which swim in the murky waters as the older, larger predators bathe in the Central American sunshine.

It is at night that the residents fear the crocodiles the most. That’s when they pick off their chickens and, worse, pet dogs.

And there is nothing anyone can do, should a crocodile come within striking distance of a dog.

Dani Hernandez lives in constant fear for her children’s lives; malaria-ridden mosquitos swarm her slum shack night and day, which sits not 50 yards from the blood-filled lake.

‘I’m kept awake at night by the biggest males roaring and fighting just metres from my door,’ Ms Hernandez, mother to Gael, four, and Brian, seven months, told MailOnline.

‘It’s terrifying, because there’s no way my tiny shack could stand up to a five metre monster if it wanted to come in.’

Lauren Villaney’s pet dog Pepper was killed last year.

‘There was nothing I could do, I just had to watch in horror through a hole in my wall,’ she told MailOnline.

‘Since that happened I’ve built a large fence around the shack, but that doesn’t stop them from prowling around the yard at all hours.’

But another resident, fed up losing his loyal companions to the crocodile’s jaws, has taken a more proactive approach.

The man, who declined to be named, said: ‘The last time they ate my dog I took a shotgun down to the lakeside and blasted the larger adults while they sat basking in the sun in the reeds.

‘You have to shoot a crocodile directly in the brain first time – otherwise they simply don’t die.

‘Even if you get a good shot in you can expect to be chased by the others. But eventually the others reptiles smell blood and cannibalise the dead crocodile.’

But they are far from the only danger the community faces.

In addition to the crocodiles, Lauren says that boa constrictor snakes, which are native to the Western Caribbean, often hunt both her and her animals.

‘The snakes are the most terrifying because they are enormous and have no fear,’ she told MailOnline.

‘If a crocodile sees a human it will generally move away, but a boa constrictor will just keep silently moving towards you.’

Meanwhile, swarms of mosquitoes envelop any thin-skinned creature within a 500-metre radius of the lake’s edge in a cloud of angry black specks, inflicting bites which last for weeks – threatening the local residents at every moment with dengue fever, malaria and zika virus.

‘My baby Brian has been made very sick by the constant mosquitoes,’ says Dani, pointing out the myriad insect bites across the little boy’s face and arms.

‘Malaria is a terrible disease, and sooner or later we all get it living here.’

‘A lot of my friends ask me why I don’t move away, but it’s not that simple,’ Lauren admitted, holding one of her hens under her arm beside the rancid lake.

‘This is a slum, we simply arrive and build our houses without official permission. The only reason we have been left alone by the government is because no one else wants the land.

‘We simply do what we can when there’s no other option. A human being can get used to living alongside anything.’

And there are other people who can see the profit in what the Lake of Blood has to offer.

The crocodiles’ leather is worth £7 a centimetre once properly cured – £500 per crocodile.

One Chetumal-based animal trafficker, El Cuerno, told MailOnline that the start of the mating season in February is the best time to poach live crocodiles from the lake.

‘The start of the mating season is when the male crocodiles are at their fattest and most powerful,’ he told MailOnline. ‘The ideal animal is around five years old and beginning to fight for territory.

‘A skin is worth less if it’s covered in scars and battle wounds so it’s important to get the animal when it is reaching adulthood, but before it has started battling for dominance.’

The municipal slaughterhouse staff declined to comment on the environmental damage caused by their improper disposal of biological waste when approached by MailOnline.

Read the original story on the Daily Mail 

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Alasdair Baverstock MA is an award-winning multimedia foreign correspondent based in Mexico City, with more than five years of experience covering Latin America. Originally from London, and with full NCTJ certification, he specialises in news and feature journalism for print, radio and television. His clients include TIME Magazine, the Daily Mail, Fox News, BBC, Daily Telegraph, TRT World, and others.

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