Caiman Information from Perran Ross

From - Roger Fisher
To James Perran Ross Executive Officer, Crocodile Specialist Group

We are building a home near La Manzanilla in the state of Jalisco, Mexico where this picture was taken. Can you identify these animals that the natives call Caimans? The teeth tell me they are crocs of some kind. They have been known to occasionally end up in the ocean and that does not make me feel very safe. They are beautiful and live in a Mangrove Lagoon near the town which is 50 km north of Manzanillo. The largest of these would be approx 4 meters in length.

Dear Mr. Fisher,

The crocodiles in your photograph are American crocodiles, Crocodylus acutus that are locally called 'caiman' or 'lagarto'

This population at Manzanilla near Manzanillo is very well known to us and currently under study by colleagues in Mexico. I am copying them this response and recommend that you also contact them directly.

Manzanilla is an exciting location because this is one of the better (more numerous) populations of this endangered species in the region and also because the local community has been protecting the animals for some years and hope to develop a community based eco-tourism activity around them and their habitat. My mexican colleagues recently reported to me that a prolonged drought has concentrated the animals and so you have the nice picture that you sent.

The species can reach large size, there are several around 4 m=12 feet at Manzanilla, and larger specimens will readily prey on smaller livestock, pets and occasionally people. The species is generally rather timid and the only chance of being attacked is if you are in the water- as the habitat is a rather nasty mangrove creek with very little potential for swimming or other in-water sports, you should be able to keep well clear of them.

They do venture into salt water and occasionally make quite extensive movements of 50km or more and so could be present in any of the local coastal waters. However there are no recorded fatalities and very few records of attacks on people in the region. The few recorded attacks are in provacative circumstances (e.g. swimming across a river with a dog where a large crocodile had been regularly reported and where dogs had been attacked before !). So just moderate caution and vigilance in aquatic activities should allow you to avoid any unfortunate incidents.

The tone of your note below suggests to me that you are curious, seeking reassurance and may be willing to make the small adjustments that living near a large and potentially dangerous wild animal requires. As an ex-patriate interested in moving to this beautiful part of Mexico I hope we can recruit your assistance to the conservation cause for these rather unlovely beasts.

My colleagues Ms. Sara Huerta and Mr. Paulino Campos are a delightful couple, completely bilingual and dedicated conservationists who run a small conservation organization called 'Bosque Tropical'. It is with such dedicated young people that the future of Mexico's wildlife and retention of its natural resources and beauty resides and I hope you and others like you can give them every assistance.

Thanks for getting in touch.

James Perran Ross
Executive Officer, Crocodile Specialist Group
Florida Museum of Natural History
Box 117800 University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611 USA
ph. 1 352 846 2566 fx 1 352 392 9367

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