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Flora and Fauna | 3 min read

Learn more about the majestic "Black Cayman"

It is known as "black alligator" due to the dark pigmentation of its scales, very similar to that of its North American relatives, the alligators. However, they are from very different families. Most of the differences between the two are in the shape of your mouth and fangs.

On the other hand, when hearing the name cayman, many relate it to a lizard of small size and less aggressive than African crocodiles, which feeds on frogs and small fish. But the truth is that this Amazonian caiman reaches an average of 4 meters long. However, skeletons have been found that surprisingly reached 7 meters. in length, makes it one of the largest alligators in the world and has nothing to do with the other small specimen.

The "black caimans" are distributed throughout most of South America, mainly in the Amazon basin. Preferring calm waters, these can be seen in lakes, rivers, swamps, even in deep waters. Any place where this giant finds food and fresh water, will make it his home. 

 The "black alligator" is mainly nocturnal and his eyes have adapted for hunting in the darkness of the Amazonian night. Most of their diet is based on fish, with different varieties of catfish their favorite food. Nevertheless, he is a very agile and patient hunter. He can wait motionless until a turtle approaches him; an unfortunate bird falls from a tree; an otter moves away from the dike or a capibara approaches to drink to the shore, to turn them into their prey. It is capable of hunting even larger animals such as deer and even jaguars. Their crude technique is to trap and sink them, then suffocate them and, finally, gobble them up.

This fame of voracious hunters is a privilege of survival, but this is not always the case. The true is that alligators, when small, can be victims of other animals, being even devoured by eagles, piranhas, herons, sajinos and, sometimes, even by other members of their same species. But upon reaching adulthood, this alligator enjoys having almost no natural predator. However, once again we can see how man becomes the main enemy of a species, even being one of the most dangerous.

Although the poorest South American areas are hunted, in smaller numbers, as a source of food, poaching continues to have their skins as their main business. These are highly valued in the luxury sectors, being used to make bags, belts, shoes, gloves and other items.


As a result of the indiscriminate hunting of "black caimans", a few years ago, to satisfy the fashion market, the black alligator came to be on the verge of extinction.

 Although, the new regulations and protection measures have contributed to the conservation of this specimen, keeping hunters and their clean habitat and their waters free from contamination, today less than 2,000 of them remain in the wild. This, unfortunately, has increased the value of their skin and has made them an asset even more quoted by the market, which keeps them in a critical condition, although, happily, it is not in danger of extinction. The "black alligator" has developed thick and almost indestructible scales, however, the skin of its belly and sides remains vulnerable to attacks by predators.

Reproductive habits: one of the greatest peculiarities of this species

The "black alligator" mates in the water during the months of November and December. After a few days, the female leaves the water in search of a safe place near the shore to nest. Generally, between trunks, over mud or swampy marshes. This nest is constructed of branches and leaves used to cover up to 70 eggs that can be placed. The hatching will take place within two months and it is during this process that the greatest particularity of this species occurs.

The sex of the offspring will depend on the temperature of the nest: if this is high, the babies will be males and if, on the contrary, the temperature is rather cold, these will be females. Incredibly, it will depend on the mother.

It will cool or warm the nest at will and its decision will vary according to the needs of the population.

The hatchlings will be born after 3 months, although there have been cases of births after a month and a half of incubation, due to environmental factors. The average size is between 20 and 30 cm in length and it will not take long for them to be able to hunt their own food.

Despite the large number of eggs they put, a large percentage of them will die in the first month of life and it is estimated that only 2% will reach adult - at 4 years of age. It should also be mentioned that these alligators do not mate every summer, but every 2 or 3 years. This is one of the reasons why it costs so much that the population of "black caimans" grow back in numbers and repopulate the Amazon area.

Thanks to the tours of Napo Cultural Center, it is possible to spot the "black caiman" in its natural habitat and in a safe way. The observation of wildlife is part of the main activities of the Eco-Lodge, thus discovering one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.
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