Fisher began calling Out of Africa Wildlife Park home in 2002, 13 years after he was born. Raised in a car, he eventually moved into a house before the reality of raising a caiman became a bit too much for the original, inexperienced owner. Enter the Arizona Department of Fish and Game. Fisher was confiscated and we were contacted as a possible home provider. Needless to say, we were all too happy to welcome our crocodilian friend. While the spectacled caiman can be quite aggressive, Fisher is remarkably gentle.
The spectacled caiman, also known as the white caiman or common caiman, is a crocodilian reptile found in much of Central and South America. It lives in a range of lowland wetland and riverine habitat types and can tolerate salt water as well as fresh; due in part to this adaptability it is the most common of all crocodilian species. It generally prefers areas of still water. South America’s extensive Pantanal floodplain provides a perfect habitat for the caiman during the rainy season, when it is 80% submerged. Caiman crocodiles have the widest distribution of any species in the Alligatoridae family. If environmental conditions become too harsh, they will burrow into mud and aestivate, or lie dormant, until conditions improve.
Males of the species are generally 6 ½ to 8 ft in length, while females are smaller, usually around 4 ½ feet. Adult males can weigh as much as 140 pounds. The species’ common name comes from a bony ridge between the eyes, giving the appearance of a pair of spectacles. They have been known to change color. During colder weather the black pigment within their skin cells will expand making them darker. A triangular ridge is present on the heavily-ossified upper eyelids, vaguely reminiscent of those on the dinosaur Allosaurus. Younger caiman are lighter and have more distinct cross-bands. For its whole life the belly is a cream to white color and the eyes are gold. The caiman resembles the crocodile in Costa Rica yet is more common. This species is much smaller than the American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus).
he spectacled caiman will reach sexual maturity in 4 to 7 years. Usually the more dominant individuals will mature more quickly. They will gather and mate during the dry season. After mating season ends the females will build nests out of dense vegetation to insulate their eggs from extreme temperature changes. The size of the nest varies depending on the resources available to the female. Each female can lay up to 40 eggs. Most caimans will nest during the wet season (July-August). It is very unusual to see a caiman nest during any winter months, because of lower temperatures. As the nest’s vegetation decays it produces heat, which can keep the eggs about five degrees warmer than if they were insulated by mud alone. Temperature not only incubates the eggs, but it also determines the sex of the developing caiman. Caiman do not possess the genes necessary to determine sex. They depend on temperature. When the temperature inside the nest is approximately 87 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, the caiman will become male. However, when the temperature is approximately 89 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, they become female. Spectacled caiman have strongly protective maternal behavior. They raise their young in crèches with one female taking care more than just her own. The dependent young are cared for communally. Caiman will take care of their young for the first two to four months after the eggs hatch, or until the floods of the wet season subside. The juveniles stay relatively close to their parents for maximum protection from predators for an average of 1-½ years. Some Caiman individuals can live up to 70 years of age. Typically the smaller species live 30 to 50 years, while the larger species live at least 50.
Join our email list and be the first to hear about our special offers and travel deals.