Creatures of the Amazon

Alligators of the Upper Amazon.

By Richard “Aukcoo” Fowler (American Naturalist )

Some of my favorite animals are the alligators and crocodiles,
the Crocodilian Family. I actually think there´re cute.
As a student of herpetology, which is the study of reptiles and amphibians,
I have been lucky enough to have had experienced all 28 living
species of the crocodilian family. Most are timid and shy and avoid man.
However, some species are very aggressive and man can be a part of their
food chain if they are not careful!
All of them can be dangerous in close quarters or when handled.
Most are defensive regarding their nest, babies and territories.
Here in Peru we have three species of caimans which are a cousin of the
alligator and crocodile:
1. The Black Caiman - (Melenosuchas Niger) Lagarto Negro.
2. The Brown Caiman (Caiman Crocodilios) or Caiman Blanco, once referred
to as the Spectacled Caiman
3. The Smooth Front Dwarf Caiman (Plaberosuchas Triganatus)
The Dwarf Caiman is small and seldom seen. They are the hardest to find,
see, and observe. They are very well camouflaged and live in shady ponds
full of leaves and tanic acid water, also in slow moving tributaries.
They have been found surprisingly far back in high jungle creeks away
from any main tributaries.
The most common caiman is The Brown Caiman. If you only see one species
while you are here in Peru, it will most likly be The Brown Caiman.
They look very much like a crocodile to most people because of their pointed
snout, which is a characteristic of the crocodile family.
The tooth configuration is the main clue this animal is not a crocodile.
The Brown Caiman´s teeth are offset and the bottom teeth have sockets
on the inside of the row of the upper jaw - which are all on the
outside and exposed.
The crocodiles teeth scissors and the fourth tooth of the lower jaw protrudes
distinctly alongside the upper jaw.
A big male or bull Brown Caiman can reach over 9 feet.
The adult female or sow never gets as big as the males.
The Black Caiman is the largest of the caimans here.
To the average person an adult black caiman can not be distinguished
from the American Alligator.
A bull Black Caiman can get over 18 feet.
Not normally aggresive, the sow can be quite defensive around her nest
and even respond to the distress grunts of the babies.
A high pitch grunt is easy to imitate, you can call adults out of hiding
with this technique.
All these animals can bite quite hard and for this reason they don´t make
good pets as they can become attached to you!
The tail is overrated as a wepon. The mouth, full of teeth, is always
the business end. The best way to observe any of the species of
crocodilians is at night with bright lights.
Their eyes reflect red like the tail light of a car.
The law prohibits hunting or molesting these animals in any way.
However, you can still buy alligator meat in many resturants.
The best way to have caimans and eat them is by farming them yourself.
Suprisingly enough there is not a program like this in Peru.
There is also a legal market for farm raised hides.
The concept of a project like this can be regulated and takes the pressure
off the wild ones. This has been done in the USA where alligators live.
Anyone interested in a project like this please contact me.
A few facts:
Crocodilians are cold blooded reptiles.
They have been around for thousands of years with little change.
They all lay eggs.
Their primary diet is fish but are opportunist and will take other prey.
Most all are nocturnal .
Just because you don´t see them in the day doesn´t mean they are not there.
A large crocodilian with a head weighing over 100 lbs will have a brain
the size of a peanut.
They only respond to stimuli and don´t do much actual thinking.
Remember the best way to protect wildlife is to safeguard the habitat
and regulate hunting pressure. Responsible ecotourism has little to no
impact on nature and helps educate visitors as well as locals.
If you are interested in seeing caimans in the wild
contact me for a personalized excursion.
And the next time you see a baby alligator
I´m sure you too will think they are cute.

If you would like to see aligators with Richard contact Mike Collis at Mad Mick’s Trading Post, Putumayo 163 Upstairs.

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