Wild Fact #163 – Orinoco Crocodile

Largest Predator in South America - Orinoco Crocodile

Did You Know?

  • The Orinoco Crocodile is a critically endangered species with only about 547 individuals found in the wild
  • This giant crocodile is considered to be South America’s largest predator, by mass
  • Believe it or not, when those 547 Orinoco Crocodiles are left alone they may live up to 70 or 80 years

A Declining Population

Unfortunately, the hide of the Orinoco Crocodile is highly sought after. This has lead to a massive amount hunting which has pretty much decimated the population for this large but beautiful crocodile. Other elements adding to this problem include habitat destruction, pollution, pet trade and the introduction of the more competitive Spectacled Caiman. These cousins of the Orinoco Crocodile are smaller but have a knack for outcompeting the big guy for food and other resources. This is why you should never introduce species into a new environment…you never know what impact they will have on the ecosystem. Largest South American Predator - Orinoco Crocodile

Mother Of The Year

The breeding behaviour of the Orinoco Crocodile is quite fascinating, at least to me. In the dry season the male and female will come together to mate. Roughly 14 weeks later the female will saunter onto the beach and bury her precious eggs into the sand. Three months later, the young crocodiles will hatch and begin crying out for their mother. Somehow, the mother will hear the pleas of her young ones and rush to the shore to uncover the eggs. For the next year, the kidlets (not a real science word….actually, this isn’t even a real word) will be protected by their mother until they are old enough to defend themselves. In all honesty, other than the burying your kids in the sand part, the female Orinoco Crocodile could probably win a few mother of the year awards.

Largest Predator in South America

Earlier we mentioned that the Orinoco Crocodile is the largest predator in South America (if you are just measuring their mass). So how big are they? Well these particular reptiles have been known to grow up to 4.8 m (16 feet) long and weigh as much as 635 kg (1400 lbs). This is probably why they are capable of taking down just about any animal living within their home range. Although, they typically feed on fish these crocodiles have been known o take down larger animals such as capybara’s, cattle and even humans. Interestingly enough, the only predator an adult Orinoco Crocodile has to worry about have two legs and a penchant for poaching.

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