Orinoco Crocodile & Black Caiman

NGOs play a crucial role in preserving wildlife in Colombia, including iconic species like Black caimans and Orinoco crocodiles. These organizations conduct research to understand the ecology and behaviour of these reptiles, identify threats to their survival and implement conservation measures to protect their habitats.

By collaborating with local communities, NGOs raise awareness about the importance of conserving these species and promote sustainable practices that reduce human-wildlife conflicts. Additionally, they work to combat illegal hunting and trafficking of crocodilian species, advocating for stricter regulations and enforcement measures.

Through habitat restoration efforts and captive breeding programs, NGOs aim to bolster wild populations and ensure the long-term survival of these apex predators.

Overall, the efforts of NGOs are essential in safeguarding the biodiversity of Colombia’s ecosystems and preserving the ecological balance for future generations.

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Orinoco Crocodile

Scientific name: Crocodylus intermedius
Conservation status:
Critically endangered

Crocodilians have always fascinated mankind and past cultures have worshipped them as gods because of their lifestyle inhabiting water, land and cavesand venerating them for their strength. The Orinoco crocodile, for one, is worthy of such admiration.

The Orinoco crocodile is considered the largest terrestrial predator on the South American subcontinent and is also longer than the American crocodile and alligator. This suggests this species is one of the larger living crocodilians, just behind the saltwater and the Nile crocodiles. 

The Orinoco crocodile inhabits wetlands associated with the Orinoco River basin, from eastern Colombia across to Venezuela. It is locally known as the caiman llanero (caiman from the flooded plains) in Colombia. The species is considered one of the most endangered crocodilians in the world and it is listed as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. This status is the result of the crocodile’s reduced distribution as a result of human pressure on the species due to hunting, net fishing, river pollution and environmental modifications.

Since the Orinoco crocodile is in danger of extinction in the wild, it became important to maintain the species in captivity. Thus, in the late 1990s, the Dallas World Aquarium signed an agreement with the government and Colombian NGOs to obtain a pair of Orinoco crocodiles, as well as to support local educational and conservational programs in that country. 

Despite being bred in captivity, once released the crocodiles were ready to hunt as they normally would as they had been trained with live bait before being released. This was a protocol demanded by Colombian environmental regulations, which also included conditions for shipping and releasing the wild animals.

To become cognizant of the fate of the crocodiles, the experts installed satellite transmitters on the crocodiles to monitor their location and behavior. The transmitters also help scientists learn about their daily routines.

WCS newsroom is an interesting site for further information as it provides access to different organizations and NGOs focusing on the survival of the Orinoco crocodile.

Black caiman

Scientific name: Melanosuchus niger
Conservation status: close to extinction

For the Indigenous peoples of Colombia’s lower Caquetá River, the lakes of Puerto Caimán form a huge maloca (ancestral house), a cultural and spiritual hub.

This watery habitat is home to the black caiman, a sacred animal in their culture. According to local elders, grandfather caiman was once a man who came down to Earth from a planet of clouds and became the creature that today rules over the water and the fish.

The black caiman is a species of large crocodilian native to north western South America. It is one of the largest members of the alligator family and even the entire crocodilian order.

This caiman is a carnivorous reptile that lives around bodies of water such as slow-moving rivers, flooded savannas and lakes. It can reach up to 5m/16’ in length and is dark-colored, just as its name suggests.

Given the delicate position of the black caiman, in January 2022, as part of the Amazonia Verde project, the first population survey of the species was carried out in Puerto Caimán, a system of three dark, highly acidic blackwater lakes.

The survey reported sightings of 123 individuals of different ages, including at least 44 adults, 16 juveniles and 18 hatchlings. The largest caiman reached 5.7m/8. So these conservation efforts are yielding positive results.

Since 1987, Conservation International has worked to spotlight and secure the critical benefits that nature provides to humanity.

Combining fieldwork with innovations in science, policy and finance, they have helped protect more than 6 million sq km/2.3 million sq miles of land and sea across more than 70 countries.

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