Black Caiman: The Monster Of The Amazon River

This crocodilian is the largest of South America and along with the American alligator one of the biggest on earth. A relentless carnivorous reptile that lives in lakes, slow rivers, and flooded savannas in different freshwater habitats of South America.

The Black Caiman is gigantic, growing at least to 5m (16 ft) and possibly up to 6m (20ft). Although, some people from the riverside population in the Amazon report that already saw Black Caimans (known as Jacaré-Açu) more than 9 meters long.

It’s just reporting, but they should not be completely ignored since the native population is who has the most direct contact with these animals, in the depths of the Amazon forest. A Black Caiman is an animal that can absolutely kill you in Brazil, but the odds of being attacked by one of these crocodiles are very low.

Largest Crocodilian in South America

The Black Caiman is a fabulous animal. Its body is black with yellow stripes. The eyes and nostrils are large and allow them to be semi-submerged. In general they feed on crabs, fish and birds. For swimming, they use the waving movement of the tail.

The Black Caiman is the largest of all alligators in South America, reaching up to 6 meters in length and weighing up to 500 kilos. There are also reports from the riverside population of Amazonas claiming to have seen animals up to 9 meters high. These are just reports, but they cannot be completely ignored, considering that these are the people who have the closest contact with the species.

Reproduction occurs once a year, on average, females lay 40 to 50 eggs. Young caimans should be careful, as they run the risk of being devoured as soon as they are born by pythons or other adult alligators. Its average lifespan is 80 years, but it can reach 100.

Today, the Açu alligator is threatened with extinction, as its leather is highly coveted and its meat is very tasty. Farmers often kill them because they pose a danger to their livestock. The animal is also known as ‘aruará alligator’ or giant alligator.

Black Caiman: The Monster Of The Amazon River

A Destructive Attack (Which Rarely Leaves Any Survivors)

When such an animal bites someone, the victim hardly survives. On New Year’s Eve 2010, in Mamirauá, São Paulo biologist Deise Nishimura had an unwanted surprise. While she was cleaning fish on the edge of the houseboat where she lived, she was dragged into the water by an alligator more than 5 meters long. Despite the slim chance of survival, she decided to fight for her life.

“At that time, I thought I had already died, that was it. But then I remembered that in a documentary I saw that when you are attacked by a shark, your most sensitive part is the nose. Then I thought: what is the most sensitive part of an alligator? I put my hand on his head and I found two holes, I don’t know if it was his nose or his eye, and I stuck my fingers in like that, really hard, and squeezed really hard. That’s when he let go of me, and then I realized that I was already without my leg”, recalls the biologist.

Deise swam to the edge of the house but couldn’t climb it. She had to climb a log to get out of the water. Exhausted, she screamed for help. But there was no one around. So she crawled into the radio room and called for help. “Fifteen minutes later, the reserve staff arrived. They made tourniquets on her legs and took the biologist to Tefé. In the hospital, an hour later, the doctor was amazed.

The biologist arrived at the hospital in a state of shock. Had she not the stamina she has and the luck she had, she wouldn’t have survived that kind of attack. What most caught the doctor’s attention is that Deise’s femoral artery remained blocked, even without the tourniquet. This prevented her from bleeding to death.

A Miraculous Tourniquet

“When I arrived at the hospital, the doctor was even surprised that I hadn’t lost much blood. He thinks that the alligator, when he was spinning me, twisted the artery too and that stopped the blood.” In the eight months she worked on the reservation, Deise took several pictures of the alligator, he liked to sleep under the floating house where the biologist lived.

The alligator even had a name: despite being a huge male, it was called a Dorothea. The day after the attack, the riverside residents of the reserve killed the animal, found Deise’s leg, and took it to the hospital in Tefé. But, according to doctor Adalberto Villa Lobos, there was no way to try reimplantation. Deise was saddened by the animal’s death and understands that it was her mistake, to be so close to such a dangerous animal without proper attention.

Deise told her survival story in this TEDx Talk. It’s in Portuguese but there are subtitles. It’s an incredible story that definitely worth the time to watch.

Black Caiman FAQ

Do Black Caimans Eat Humans?

As a general rule, Black Caimans do not eat humans, it’s very rare. Black Caimans do not attack humans for food, but by mistake, believing it to be prey that is part of their food chain. Still, the data indicate at least 2 annual lethal attacks caused by Black Caimans in the Amazon region.

How Big Is A Black Caiman?

A Black Caiman can be up to 20 feet long, weighing almost half a ton. There are even reports of local residents claiming to have seen Black Caimans up to 30 feet. These are just reports, but they cannot be ignored since the riverside population is the one with the closest contact with these animals.

Can A Black Caiman Kill A Jaguar?

A Black Caiman can easily kill a jaguar, especially in water where they hunt best. Despite the Jaguar’s strong bite (the strongest of all felines), it would be difficult to compete with a Black Caiman. The skin of crocodiles is an armor that not even the jaguar’s powerful bite would easily pierce.

Are Black Caimans Dangerous?

Black Caimans are ferocious and very dangerous predators, but they only attack humans by accident (when mistaken for prey) or even when they feel threatened. Still, because of the size and incredible force of its bite, an encounter with a Black Caiman hardly leaves any survivors.

Do Caiman Attack Humans?

As a general rule, Black Caimans only attack humans by accident (when mistaken for prey) or when they feel threatened and in breeding seasons. Despite being low in number, almost every year there are reports of attacks, mainly involving riverside populations in the Amazon region.

How Dangerous Are Black Caimans?

As a general rule, Black Caimans are extremely dangerous as they are fierce and very strong (crocodilians have the strongest bites in the animal kingdom). Although attacks on humans are rare, it’s important to avoid contact with these animals in their habitat and even in controlled environments.

How Long Do A Black Caiman Live?

A Black Caiman lives an average of 80 years, reaching up to 100 years of age in well-preserved environments. Unfortunately, nowadays, the Black Caiman suffers to live a long time: the animal is threatened with extinction because its skin is very coveted and its meat is very consumed.

What Is The Bite Force Of A Black Caiman?

The Black Caiman bite has a power of 6000 PSI. It’s one of the most powerful and destructive bites in the animal kingdom. A study showed that the bite of a Black Caiman can surpass 28000 Newtons of power, an incredible number. A Jaguar, for example, has a bite power of 1600 PSI (about 7500 Newtons).


What’s up! I’m André, a Brazilian born and bred living in the South of Brazil in a little city called Guarapuava. I’m passionate about traveling and knowing different cultures and that’s why I love to share useful information about the Food, Travel, Facts, and Culture of my beloved country, Brazil.

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