CROCODILES AND ALLIGATORS OF THE RAINFOREST
SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA
ASIA AND AUSTRALIA
Rain Forest Predators
The black caiman of the Amazon rainforest is often mistaken for an alligator, which it closely resembles. However, true alligators only live in two places in the world, and neither is a rainforest environment: the Southeastern US and the Yangtze River in China. The black caiman (Melanosuchus niger) is the largest of the six caiman species, reaching a length of almost 17 feet (5 meters). The spectacled caiman (Caiman crododilus) has the largest range, inhabiting tropical and subtropical waters from Mexico to northern Argentina. The spectacled caiman grows to a length of around 7 feet (2.2 meters). Like all crocodilians, caimans eat a variety of fish, amphibians, turtles, birds and mammals—whatever creature happens to be unlucky enough to wander near them. They in turn are preyed upon by a variety of other animals, at least when they are small. Aside from man, however, full-grown caimans have few worries about other predators, except perhaps for the jaguar or a particularly large anaconda. Watch a video of a black caiman hunting.
The rainforests of Asia, Africa, Australia and the South Pacific are home to a variety of crocodile species of different sizes, from the 5-foot-long dwarf crocodile of West Africa to the giant saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) of Northern Australia, Indonesia, New Guinea and Southeast Asia. Saltwater crocs live along the coasts and in estuaries and river systems throughout their range, and they are one of the most feared animals on earth, as they can grow to lengths of over 20 feet and have been known to kill and eat humans. Their usual diet consists of almost any creature not wary enough to avoid them. In turn, the only predator a medium-size or larger saltwater crocodile needs to worry about is the tiger.
The apex crocodilian of Africa’s rainforest rivers and swamps is the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) which reaches lengths of 17 or 18 feet. In fact, the Nile crocodile ranges far beyond the rain forests to inhabit most of the continent’s rivers and lakes. It is famous for feeding on large mammals, and in the savannah areas of Africa, crocodiles often lurk in rivers near places where migrating zebras, wildebeests and other animals are in the habit of crossing. The big herds pay a toll in lives for the privilege of reaching the opposite shore.