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Target Species: Black caiman, Melanosuchus niger
Location: Rupununi River, Guyana
Director: Hugo Smith


Location: Although a South American country, Guyana very much looks to the Caribbean. It's borders are disputed with Venezuela and Suriname.

Mission Statement:

Black caiman are endangered and almost extinct throughout almost their formerly huge Amazonian range, being hunted for skins by Brazilian poachers for years. However they are still present in large numbers in two locations, the Kaw Swamps in French Guiana (where they are now being hunted) and on the Rupununi River in Guyana. For the people of the Rupununi the fact that the large crocodilian living alongside them is a rare and endangered species is of little interest, they consider this large 20ft (6m) predator a dangerous menace when it kills valuable hunting dogs, children and even adults. Families are left to mourn lost loved ones with no bodies to bury, and some river people have to grow up, their lives and bodies scarred by encounters with black caiman. Mark fervently believes in the conservation of the remaining crocodilians but plainly the Rupununi black caiman are not the endangered species here, it is the besieged human population that is at most risk. How can he equate his concern for the future of the black caiman with the heart-rending stories he hears from the river folk ? Can man and caiman live alongside each other without fear or danger ?


A close view of a 10ft (3m) Black caiman (Melanosuchus niger), note the raised vertebral ridge on the back.

Species recorded during 'River Giant'

Species Common Name
BUFONIDAE TRUE TOADS
Bufo typhonius South American toad
HYLIDAE TREEFROGS
Scinax rubra Banana treefrog
LEPTODACTYLIDAE SOUTHERN FROGS
Leptodactylus fuscus Striped savanna bullfrog
PELOMEDUSIDAE AFRO-AMERICAN SIDE-NECK TURTLES
Podocnemis unifilis Yellow-headed river turtle
ALLIGATORIDAE ALLIGATORS & CAIMAN
Melanosuchus niger Black caiman
GEKKONIDAE GECKOES
Hemidactylus mabouia Cosmopolitan house gecko
IGUANIDAE IGUANAS
Iguana iguana iguana South American green iguana
SCINCIDAE SKINKS
Mabuya bistriata Two-lined mabouya
TEIIDAE MACROTEIIDS
Ameiva ameiva ameiva Common ameiva
TROPIDURIDAE LAVA & TREE LIZARDS
Tropidurus hispidus Lava lizard
BOIDAE BOAS
Corallus hortulanus Amazonian tree boa


Location: The Rupununi and southern Essequibo Rivers are home to large populations of Black caiman, Giant river otters and piranha.


The Rupununi River is a last stronghold for the threatened Black Caiman (Melanosuchus niger).

 

 


The river people of the Rupununi feel threatened by the Black caiman.

 

 


The Giant otter is another large predator on the Rupununi River.

 

 


Black caiman are commonly seen basking on the river bank but they quickly head for the water.

 

 


O'Shea caught two large Black caiman, this 10ft (3m) specimen and another measuring 12ft (4m).

 

 


Juvenile Black caiman find security in numbers in creches in the shallow water.

 


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