Exciting Times Searching For Wild Crocodilians

While reading César Barrio-Amorós’ “Orinoco Croc Encounters” article in this issue, I reflected back on my own experience searching for wild crocodilians during a visit to the Peruvian Amazon as part of a terrific GreenTracks expedition in 1995. By the end of the week-long adventure, we found more than 90 different herp species, including a pair of the extremely rare Amazonian leaf frog (Agalychnis craspedopus). Not only did we find the two adult frogs, but also an egg mass suspended from a twig over a small pool of water in a tree stump. Later, when they would hatch from the eggs, the tadpoles would fall into the water.

The crocodilian portion of the trip came one evening when we visited a small lake in search of caiman, both spectacled and black. We were in small boats armed with flashlights, shining them along the shoreline and among the vegetation while looking for the telltale eyeshine of a caiman. Caiman eyes would reflect red (interestingly, spider eyes were blue), and using this method we were able to locate some spectacled caiman but no black. We also looked for the latter while exploring a particularly swampy area, and it dawned on me that here I was, a fairly out-of-shape individual, tromping in deep muck, sometimes up to my knees, while looking for a nasty-tempered crocodilian that was known to reach lengths upward of 15 feet.  I’m probably lucky I never did find one!

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