20 May 2012

Observing the Spectacled Caiman

The Spectacled Caiman (Caïman à lunettes), can be observed at night. This is a traditional night excursion made at the Kaw swamp.
We embarked on a pirogue from the "floating camp" at 20:30 sharp in the complete dark. Our guide, Gilbert, had only a light halogen torch mounted on his head. He was standing at the rear side for piloting the pirogue. As the boat was moving, he was regularly sweeping the river bed from left to right and right to left with the beam of his lamp. The trick is that, in the complete dark, the eyes of the caiman strongly reflects the light when on the surface of the water. With such a technique we were able to approach a young caiman after 15 minutes. Great!
We continued our way for further observations. Then, after another evidence of the presence of a caiman, Gilbert re directed swiftly the pirogue in right direction without engine power to reach the targeted place. The boat slided silently in the complete dark toward the flooded bank while he was getting to the front. All passenger lights were switched off according to his instructions, but suddenly we just eared a noise as if  someone fell in the water...

No panic, Gilbert just told us that we can now switch on our torches as he just caught the caiman to show us.
the temporarily captured animal was rather quiet. It was a young caiman (4 or 5 years) which has obviously been taken surprised.
The presence of a bony ridge between the eyes, gives the appearance of a pair of spectacles. This is the origin of its given name.
It is present everywhere in French Guiana ... even in urban zones! but with such teeth it is not really armful.
It is a beautiful and useful animal which is unfortunately illegally hunt for its meat.
Its size is normally 1,5 to 2,5 meter long.
After few other details on its anatomy (the caught caiman was a male), our captured friend was freed and return to the swamp for further exciting adventures...   All other night excursionists were quite enthusiastic about this unusual encounter and came back safely to their floating hotel, but under an heavy rain fall :-)

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