Orinoco Crocodile
The Orinoco crocodile, Crocodylus intermedius, is a critically endangered
Critically endangered
Version 2010.3 of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species identified 3744 Critically Endangered species, subspecies and varieties, stocks and subpopulations.Critically Endangered by kingdom:*1993 Animalia*2 Fungi*1745 Plantae*4 Protista-References:...

A crocodile is any species belonging to the family Crocodylidae . The term can also be used more loosely to include all extant members of the order Crocodilia: i.e...

 found in freshwater in northern South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, in particular the Orinoco
The Orinoco is one of the longest rivers in South America at . Its drainage basin, sometimes called the Orinoquia, covers , with 76.3% of it in Venezuela and the remainder in Colombia...

 River. Typical measurements for adults range from 3 to 4.8 m (9.9-16 ft). Typical weight for mature females is 200 kg (440 lbs) and 380 kg (837 lbs) for males. The largest specimen reported was shot in 1800 and allegedly measured 6.6 m (22 ft). This was unconfirmed and modern Orinoco crocodiles are not thought to exceed 5 m (16.5 ft). Even at its mean size it is seemingly the largest crocodilian in the Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

, although American Crocodile
American Crocodile
The American crocodile is a species of crocodilian found in the Neotropics. It is the most widespread of the four extant species of crocodiles from the Americas. Populations occur from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of southern Mexico to South America as far as Peru and Venezuela. It also lives...

s approach similar dimensions. The Orinoco crocodile can be recognised by its relatively long snout and its yellowish hide with dark brown bands.

It is restricted to the Orinoco River drainage basin and the Meta River
Meta River
The Meta River is formed in the Meta Department, Colombia by the confluence of the Humea, Guatiquía and Guayuriba rivers. It flows east-northeastward across the Llanos Orientales plains of Colombia through an ancient fault...

 drainage basin in Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

 and Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

. They have been occasionally reported on the island of Trinidad
Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the two major islands and numerous landforms which make up the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. It is the southernmost island in the Caribbean and lies just off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. With an area of it is also the fifth largest in...

, but this has not been confirmed and witnesses may have mistaken an American crocodile
American Crocodile
The American crocodile is a species of crocodilian found in the Neotropics. It is the most widespread of the four extant species of crocodiles from the Americas. Populations occur from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of southern Mexico to South America as far as Peru and Venezuela. It also lives...

 for the rarer species.

The Orinoco crocodile mates during the drier period of the year and usually 14 weeks after mating, the female crocodile will dig a nest. It is a hole-nester and usually makes the nest on a sand bank. The eggs incubate for around 3 months. During the night they hatch and call to their mother who digs them out of the nest and carries them to the water. The young are defended by their mother for a year. Young Orinoco crocodiles are often at risk from American Black Vulture
American Black Vulture
The Black Vulture also known as the American Black Vulture, is a bird in the New World vulture family whose range extends from the southeastern United States to Central Chile and Uruguay in South America...

s, tegu lizards
Tupinambis is a lizard genus which belongs to the family Teiidae, and contains seven described species. These large, South American lizards are commonly referred to as tegus; Tupinambis merianae , Tupinambis rufescens , and Tupinambis teguixin are all common in...

, anaconda
An anaconda is a large, non-venomous snake found in tropical South America. Although the name actually applies to a group of snakes, it is often used to refer only to one species in particular, the common or green anaconda, Eunectes murinus, which is one of the largest snakes in the world.Anaconda...

s, caiman
Caimans are alligatorid crocodylians within the subfamily Caimaninae. The group is one of two subfamilies of the family Alligatoridae, the other being alligators. Caimans inhabit Central and South America. They are relatively small crocodilians, with most species reaching lengths of only a few...

s, and other carnivore
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging...


The Orinoco crocodile is highly endangered due to excessive hunting for its hide. During the 1940s to the 1960s, literally thousands of these animals were slaughtered in the Orinoco River and the Llanos
The Llanos is a vast tropical grassland plain situated to the east of the Andes in Colombia and Venezuela, in northwestern South America. It is an ecoregion of the Flooded grasslands and savannas Biome....

 wetlands, and the species came very close to extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

. The Orinoco crocodile was given protected status in the 1970s. Today it is protected both in Venezuela and Colombia, and also included on Appendix I by CITES. In addition to hunting for its hide, more recent threats also include the collection of juveniles for sale in the live animal trade, pollution
Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light...

, and the proposal of a dam
A dam is a barrier that impounds water or underground streams. Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. Hydropower and pumped-storage hydroelectricity are...

 in the upper Orinoco River region.

It is unclear how many individuals remain in the wild, but estimates range between 250-1500 individuals. The population in Colombia is very low, with the largest sub-population estimated at around 50 individuals in the Casanare
Casanare Department
Casanare is a department of Colombia. It is in the central eastern region of the country. Its capital is Yopal. It contains oil fields and an 800 km pipeline leading to the coastal port of Coveñas owned by BP.-Municipalities:# Aguazul# Chameza...

 area. The largest sub-population in Venezuela is in Cojedes
Cojedes is a town in the Venezuelan state of Cojedes. This town is the shire town of the Anzoátegui Municipality and, according to the 2001 Venezuelan census, the municipality has a population of 14,044.-Demographics:...

  and Sararé, with less than 500 adults remaining. A number of other smaller sub-populations exist.

In November 2007, 50 individuals were held in zoo
A zoological garden, zoological park, menagerie, or zoo is a facility in which animals are confined within enclosures, displayed to the public, and in which they may also be bred....

s registered by ISIS
International Species Information System
-External links:*...

, of which the largest population, 35 individuals, were kept in the Dallas World Aquarium
Dallas World Aquarium
The Dallas World Aquarium is an aquarium and zoo located in West End Historic District of downtown Dallas, Texas, USA. The zoo aids conservation and education by housing many animals that are threatened or endangered as part of a cooperative breeding program with other zoos around the world.The...

. Additionally, a large number of individuals are held at captive breeding facilities in Venezuela. Since the early 1990s, a large number of hatchlings have been released both into private ranchlands (especially in the Llanos where nature oriented tourism is important for the local economy) and in national parks in Venezuela. As many hatchlings die before reaching adulthood, 360 captive bred individuals have been released only after reaching a length of 2 m (6½ ft).


Like all crocodilians, the majority of the Orinoco crocodile's diet consists of fish, but as an opportunistic apex predator
Apex predator
Apex predators are predators that have no predators of their own, residing at the top of their food chain. Zoologists define predation as the killing and consumption of another organism...

 virtually any animal living within its range could be considered a potential meal for a large adult (including capybara
The capybara , also known as capivara in Portuguese, and capibara, chigüire in Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador ronsoco in Peru, chigüiro, and carpincho in Spanish, is the largest living rodent in the world. Its closest relatives are agouti, chinchillas, coyphillas, and guinea pigs...

, domestic animals, and even occasionally other large predators if food is scarce.) There have been reports of attacks on humans, but this is highly unlikely given the extremely low population level of the species and its relative isolation from large human settlements
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