SPECIES FACT FILE
Scientific name: Caiman yacare
English names: Red Brocket
Spanish and local names: Caimán Yacaré, Yacaré
Size: 2.5 to 3 m (8.2 to 9.8 ft)
Caimans are very similar to alligators but differ from them because of the bony plates they have on their skin called osteoderms. These osteoderms offer them protection and this species features very peculiar osteoderms on top of their eyes that give them the appearance of having spectacles, a feature they share with their northern relatives the spectacled caimans. Yacare caimans are the largest of all species of caimans in the Americas, reaching up to 3 meters in length. They have short strong limbs, a long snout with a round end, teeth that are easily seen with their mouth closed and a long tail which comprises 30% of their total weight. They are born of a yellow colour and mature to a dark greenish-yellow and black coloration when they are sexually mature, when they are around 4 years of age.
Yacare caimans need to be around water to thrive, and the floodable Bolivian wetlands are their perfect habitat, where large quantities of them can be found around the enormous lagoons and marshes. There are also many riverine populations that exist in all mayor river systems in central South America, comprising all of the Bolivian lowland, Paraguay, Southern Brazil and Northern Argentina.
Young caimans eat mainly snails and molluscs while grown caimans have in their diet mainly fish with some birds and mammals in their menu, these latter two being more prayed on when other food becomes scarce, since it requires a larger investment of energy.
Caimans spend a lot of time basking under the sun in muddy areas that were previously flooded and are drying up. They can move on land rapidly, hiss when disturbed and can inflate themselves. Caimans do not usually attack humans. When they hunt they seize their prey and drag it underwater to drown it.
Reproduction season begins in the summer when males will mark their territory and fight to expel weaker individuals. Females will come to the area and copulate repeatedly to guarantee fertilisation of the eggs. Later on they will build nests with materials they find in the area, always close to the water where they will deposit 20 to 40 eggs. Nests can be 1.5 meters in diameter and .6 meters high.
When little, Caimans have many predators, amongst them many birds. Once grown, only the mighty Jaguar and the Anaconda are brave and strong enough to take a caiman as a meal.
Yacare caimans are listed as Least Concern “LC” by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) which means that it is not considered an endangered species. Caimans have a high reproductive rate and exist in large numbers, which is why they are considered as not threatened. This does not mean that their populations are becoming smaller and that they don’t face risks and threats.
Yacare skin is a product that has been used for clothing products for a long time and it is the main reason that has caused the death of thousands of these animals. Today Yacare farms exist to satisfy this demand. Yacares are also hunted for their meat by local people and for the wildlife pet trade.
At La Senda Verde we have one caiman that was victim of the pet trade. He didn’t get to grow as big as his wild relatives because of his captivity.
Natives in the Bolivian amazon know that in a single lagoon, caimans have one individual which is the largest one of all of them. This specific individual is so valuable to the lagoon that he is seen as some type of mythical being or god, called Jichi. It is believed that killing the Jichi of a lagoon will result in the lagoon drying up.
COLOR SHIFTERS- The pigmentation cells on their skin can become darker when the weather is cold.
WATER TREMBLERS– Caimans have a way to produce a call while in the water that causes the water on their back to shake and tremble, making a unique pattern.
WEATHER DECIDES- If the temperature of the nest is below 31 C the hatchlings will be males. If the temperature is above 32 the hatchlings will be females.
Yacare at La Senda Verde