“Caiman” is the Spanish word for alligator and “Yacare” is the Portuguese word for ... alligator, too! These scaly relatives of the crocodile live in the swamps of central South America and numbers in Brazil are steadily increasing. They used to be hunted ruthlessly for leather, but the Government cracked down heavily on poaching and put a ban on the sale of crocodilian products in 2002. Nowadays, due to their fairly small size, their main threats are jaguars and anaconda.
Although adult caiman can reach around 3 metres in length, they are not capable of eating humans. They do, however, enjoy eating piranha fish which has led to them being nick-named “piranha caiman”. They also eat insects, snails, snakes and capybara. In the Zoo they are fed on rats and freshwater fish.
Caiman construct large mound nests for laying their eggs in the rainy season. Around 20 – 30 eggs are laid and the females guard the nests from predators.