Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Caiman Hunt in the Pitch Dark- Tombopato River, Peru

white caiman of the Amazon Rainforest
white caiman of the Amazon Rainforest
You might think that waiting until nighttime is an odd time to go on a hunt in the Amazon Rainforest. "You're going to trip, fall in a ditch, and get eaten by an anaconda." Granted, this is a real possibility (not really) but counterintuitive as it might sound, it's actually easier to spot animals in the pitch dark.
Over millennia, evolution has created camouflage to help animals blend into the forest, helping hide both predator and prey, but without the chance to adapt to manmade technology, high powered lights shining at night will reflect back from the eyes of animals in a bright red glow, enabling us to pinpoint the creature's location which otherwise would have remained hidden.
searching for caiman of the Amazon Rainforest
approaching the riverbank + caiman in the night
We head out in a riverboat, insects flying all around us, attracted by the strong light hooked up to an old car battery being shone across the river, aimed at the shallow water and river banks. 
Tonight we are fortunate, an eerie red light bounces back in our direction. Our vessel glides towards the glow, our guide Milton crawls out onto the deck, laying horizontally, extending his arms down towards the river. 
handling white caiman of the Amazon Rainforest
pulling the caiman from the water (action shot)
With one fell swoop Milton grabs the caiman around the neck and tail. He pulls it up and into the boat, the Chinese tourists jumping backwards, frightened; me, I'm much more amazed at our guide's skill and dexterity.
He holds the caiman up for us, educating us about the animal, guessing it's likely age, then offering us the chance to handle it.
handling for caiman of the Amazon Rainforest
the light bounces back from the eyes with a red glow

video: watch the red eyes glowing in the light after our guide catches the first caiman

video: handling the caiman

The poor animal, despite being 8-10 years of age, clears its throat, instinctually calling for Mom. He's handed to me, he seems ... almost docile. As I adjust my grip the caiman attempts to thrash his way free. Once I've regained control, the animal once again seems to calm, perhaps awaiting his next opportunity for escape. I hold the animal tightly, but not so much to hurt him. 
Having perhaps selfishly handled the animal for long enough, we release him back into the water, hopefully not worse for the wear, and head back towards base, using our high beam to scan for larger animals such as jaguar or capybara, but only encountering birds (mostly nightjars) and a mother caiman with ten babies on the riverbank. We don't mess with the hatchlings, momma's present. Never piss off a mom. 

video: releasing the caiman back into the river

handling white caiman of the Amazon Rainforest

1 comment:

Follow us + like us on Facebook as well --