Spectacled Caiman

Caiman crocodilus

Species Information

Introducing one of the biggest crowd pleasers at Chew Valley Animal Park: the caiman! These feisty reptiles love to chill in their heated pool and be sprayed with some water!

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This species of caiman has the largest distribution of any other caiman, ranging from Central to South America. They live in freshwater such as lakes, rivers and mangroves.

They may be classed as a small-to-medium sized crocodilian, but males can still grow to 2.5 metres (8.7ft) in length and females nearly reaching 2 metres (6.6ft)! Their name comes from a bony ridge between their eyes, giving the appearance of a pair of spectacles. These semi-aquatic creatures have a streamlined body and powerful tail which makes swimming effortless. As caiman are cold blooded and cannot regulate their body temperate they inhabit warm areas where they can increase their body temperature from the heat of the sun. However, they do not possess any anatomical features such as sweat glands to prevent overheating. Thus, they must enter the water to cool off. However, when there are prolonged periods of drought, they will retreat into the mud and shut down their body or become dormant to conserve energy until environmental conditions improve.

These carnivores eat fish, crabs, amphibians, birds, reptiles, snails, some mammals and also each other when food is scarce. It is reported they have 105 prey items in their diet!

Usually between 30-40 years but can live up to 75 years.

They are usually territorial yet will tolerate other caiman when food is plentiful. They spend most of the day submerged in the water but will bask on the shore when they need to increase their body temperature. They typically feed at night, detecting vibrations in the water and then rapidly responding to catch their prey.

Males become aggressive and territorial during mating season where generally the larger males are the ones to mate. A male and female will court by swimming together, rubbing backs, circling each other, bumping snouts and bubble-blowing. After copulation, a female will lay up around 30 eggs in the male’s territory and both will protect the eggs from potential predators. After 90 days the eggs will hatch.

Least Concern

After the babies hatch, the mother will carry them in their mouths to safe waters!