December 31, 2013
The floating shelter, which has been constructed using bamboo poles and foliage by staff at the Towan Promenade wildlife attraction, is designed to provide the couple with a covered underwater area which mimics conditions in the wild.
As well as providing additional environmental enrichment for the metre-long reptiles, keepers hope it will also encourage the pair, called Gnasher and
Nibbles to start breeding.
Blue Reef’s Steve Matchett said: “Caimans use burrows in the wild in which to shelter.
“They have both been investigating their new shelter and have become a lot more active since we put it up. Hopefully it won’t be too long before they start laying eggs,” he added.
The Cuvier’s dwarf caiman is the smallest surviving member of the crocodilian family found in the Americas. Fully grown adult males reach up to 1.6 metres in length.
They are found throughout South America and live in freshwater habitats like rivers, including the Amazon, flooded forests and larger lakes.
The caimans are covered with extremely tough, bony armour plates. This may be to make up for their relatively small size and protect them from attacks by larger predators.
In the wild the caiman build nests out of rotting vegetation. The heat generated by the decomposing plant matter helps to keep the eggs warm.
Incubation usually takes up to three months and, when they do hatch, the tiny babies make take several days before they enter the water. In the wild it is thought that the female will dig up the nest and direct the hatchlings towards water in response to their calls.
Due to their relatively small size and the toughness of their skin the Cuvier’s dwarf caiman is not hunted commercially and their numbers in the wild are believed to be stable.
However the main threat to their survival comes from habitat destruction and pollution through gold mining and other industrial activities.
Issued on behalf of the Blue Reef Aquarium. For more information and to arrange picture/interview opportunities please contact Steve Matchett or Jenni Smith on 01637 878134.