The yacare caiman (Caiman yacare) is a caiman species that inhabits the central part of South America, including northern Argentina, southern Bolivia and Midwest regions of Brazil, especially in the Pantanal and the Paraguay rivers.
It inhabits the southernmost range of all caiman species. It lives primarily in aquatic environments such as wetlands, rivers, ponds, lagoons and marshes.
Until recent years the Yacare caiman was classified as a subspecies of the Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus). Nowadays most scientists consider the Yacare caiman to be a separate species.
It is considered a medium sized crocodilian, measuring between 2 to 3 meters long and its color pattern is quite varied, and the back particularly dark, with transverse yellow bands, especially in the tail.
Due to their small size, they are not considered a threat to humans. In some of the larger specimens, even with the mouth closed, some of the of lower jaw teeth, pass right through the upper jaw, so it is sometimes also called "piranha caiman".
Its importance in the ecological control of other species is also very real: they feed on weaker individuals, old or sick, making an instinctive natural selection.
Yacare Caiman - Diet
Their diet consists mainly of snails and fish, they may occasionally eat snakes. The larger specimens may prey upon mammals like the capybara. The feces of the caiman serve as food for many fish. When they feed on snails they kill the transmitter of diseases such as schistosomiasis (water belly). Nevertheless, the yacare caiman was nearly extinct.
Yacare Caiman - Reproduction
They usually reach sexual maturity around the age of 10 (1.2 m). The female mounds up a nest where it lays between 21 and 38 eggs, which will hatch in March. The incubation period lasts from 70 to 80 days.
The female usually guards the nest, but in areas of intensive hunting, they have a tendency to abandon the nest soon after the eggs are laid. The Yacare caiman can, in comparison to other crocodiles, reproduce very quickly, which has helped preserve them against illegal hunting.
Yacare Caiman - Conservation status and major threats
In the 1970 and 1980 poaching, for the skin trade, had very negative effects in this species , and it still remains a problem today. The destruction of habitat also contributes to reduction of their numbers.
There are several conservation programs in place in Brazil , Argentina an Bolivia. The yacare caiman is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, with an estimated population in the wild of of 100,000 to 200,000 individuals.
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