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Yakarsky, or Paraguayan cayman - Caiman yacare - (other names are red cayman, piranha cayman, southern spectacle cayman). "Yakar" is the local alligator designation. Until recently, it was considered a subspecies. Caiman crocodilus. Currently allocated in a separate view.

The Yakar Caiman lives in northern Argentina, southern Brazil and in Paraguay. Inhabits swamps and swampy lowlands, often hiding among floating islands of greenery. Among all the relatives, the range of the Yakar caiman goes further south than others.

The Yakar caiman is a protected species, is listed in Appendix II of the CITES Convention, and is included in the IUCN Red List under the LRlc category (LOW RISK, LEAST CONCERN). The estimated population is from 100,000 to 200,000. Illegal hunting of the 1970s and 80s. significantly reduced the population compared to traditionally living in this area, but remains in satisfactory condition even during the drought.

Yakarsky cayman looks similar to Caiman crocodilus, reaching a body length of 2.5 to 3 m. Like other caimans, it has osteoderms - bone scutes on the skin. Fragments of the skin with the least number of osteoderms are used in industry. The name “piranha caiman” was obtained from the characteristic structure of the teeth, in which individual long teeth of the lower jaw can extend beyond the upper jaw.

The Yakar caiman eats aquatic invertebrates (especially snails) and vertebrates - fish, rarely - snakes. In the breeding season, caimans build nests in which the female lays 21-38 eggs. This happens in the middle of the rainy season. Females defend the nest during incubation. In areas where caimans are actively exterminated by hunters, females leave their nests immediately after they lay their eggs. Young hatch in March. Like Caiman crocodilus, C. yacare able to breed in relatively quick time compared to other crocodiles, this ability helps to maintain the population size.

Joint programs are in place to conserve caiman in Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina with the involvement of Paraguay. In Bolivia, caimans are living under natural conditions, and crocodiles are working in Brazil and Argentina. All this, combined with active educational work and environmental programs for the conservation of caiman habitats, should help stabilize their populations.

Piranha hunter

Paraguayan caiman is a native of the central regions of South America. It can be found in Argentina, Uruguay, southeast Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay. This is one of the most preserved crocodiles in the wild - according to experts, the modern population totals about 10 million individuals. Until recently, this reptile was identified with the crocodile caiman (Caiman crocodilus), but then it acquired species independence.

Like the Brazilian wide-haired cayman, Paraguayan was described in 1802 by the French naturalist Francois-Marie Doden, who gave the reptiles a binomial name Caiman yacare. Other names for this crocodile are red cayman, southern spectacle cayman, piranha cayman.
Foreign names: Yacare caiman, Paraguayan caiman, Red caiman, Piranha caiman, Coscarudo, Yacare de Hocico, Angosto, Yacare negro, Southern spectacular caiman.

For living, the Paraguayan cayman chooses marshy lowlands, shallow calm rivers and streams, overgrown with algae and coastal vegetation, as well as other freshwater bodies. Often hiding among floating islands of vegetation, numerous in the floodplain of South American rivers.

Paraguayan cayman, as well as his wide-mouthed fellow (Caiman latirostris), does not apply to large crocodiles - only in exceptional cases can its length exceed three meters. The usual sizes of males are 2.0-2.5 m with a weight of up to 60 kg. Females are smaller and rarely grow longer than one and a half meters.
Nevertheless, it is believed that the Paraguayan caiman is larger than the wide-mouthed Brazilian cayman, and stronger than it, so the latter avoid the habitat of a Paraguayan relative.

In appearance, the Paraguayan cayman is very reminiscent of a crocodile cayman (Caiman crocodilus)however, it has a characteristic bite that distinguishes it from other caimans. The upper jaw does not have special recesses for the fangs of the lower jaw, so they protrude from under the lip to the outside.
Apparently, this appearance was the reason for the appearance of the name “piranha caiman”, since the piranhas have a similar design of the dental apparatus and the expression “faces”. But perhaps, the Paraguayan cayman owes this name to taste preferences - the piranha predatory fish that live in the Amazon basin is his favorite prey. The total number of teeth in the mouth is 72-82.

Body color contains brownish tones and can vary from tan to chestnut. On the tail and sides there are usually 7-8 dark transverse stripes. Young individuals have a yellow-green body color and dark spots along the abdomen and base of the tail. Dark spots are also often present on the lower jaw.

The lifestyle is characteristic of a predator who prefers a secretive hunt from an ambush or sneaking up on a prey. This tactic is used by all crocodiles. The prey captured by the teeth is swallowed whole without chewing, since the teeth of the crocodiles are not intended for grinding food.
The diet of these caimans consists of small animals - invertebrates (snails, crustaceans, larvae), fish (especially piranhas), amphibians, reptiles (snakes, lizards, turtles), rodents, small mammals, etc.
The juveniles feed on small animal prey (insects, larvae, snails, etc.). Due to their small size, Paraguayan caimans are not considered deadly animals for humans, however, like any other predator, they are capable of aggression.

The main natural enemies are large predators (jaguars, anacondas, etc.), as well as lovers to feast on eggs.

Propagated by egg laying. In the rainy season (November-December), the female builds a nest from the soil and vegetation, in which it lays up to 40 eggs. Incubation lasts about 100 days, then small cayman hatch from eggs. Paraguayan caiman multiplies rapidly (compared with related species), therefore, its population is currently relatively large.

As noted above, the Paraguayan caiman is one of the most numerous of the surviving crocodiles. This is due to the ability to multiply rapidly, inaccessibility to poachers of habitats, as well as the skin that is of little value for the leather industry.
The skin of these caimans is much less appreciated than the wide-mouthed caimans. And, despite the fact that hunting for this reptile is not prohibited everywhere in the range, the conservation status of the species is currently Caiman yacare - least worrisome (LR).

Spread

The species is common in the central regions of South America. It is found in Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay. Its range in many respects coincides with the area of ​​the wide-mouthed cayman.

In the Argentinean province of Corrientes, more than 20 thousand individuals live, among which the percentage of albinos is very high.

There are many crocodile farms in Argentina and Brazil where reptiles are reared for meat.

Their eggs are eaten by local Native American tribes and are considered to be an exquisite treat. Among Europeans, as a rule, their smell and taste evoke a feeling of deep disgust.

Paraguayan caimans inhabit freshwater bodies of water with slowly flowing and stagnant water. To feel comfortable, they need a muddy bottom and plenty of aquatic vegetation, where you can easily hide. In the rainy season, they often end up in ditches and puddles nearby human settlements.

Despite its impressive size, the reptile has a rather shy character. She prefers hunting for small living creatures, and attacks large prey only in exceptional cases. Its jaws are more adapted for a sharp slam, rather than a long retention of the hunting trophy.

Reptiles love to bask in the sun for a long time on the banks of rivers and lakes. They move quite quickly on land, but in moments of danger they always rush to a saving pond. To scare the enemy, they make growling and hissing sounds.

They can observe the victim from afar, with their eyes above the water. Having noticed the object of interest to them, predators cautiously swim towards it and grab it with a lightning-fast throw. This form of hunting is most often used in attacks on waterfowl.

In most cases, the jacquard is ambushed. Waiting for the victim, he can be under water for up to one hour.

The basis of the diet is piranha. Interestingly, in Paraguayan caimans, the structure of the teeth resembles the dental apparatus of these predatory fish. Their lower fangs stick out from under the lip, and there are no depressions on the upper jaw to hide them.

A nice addition to the menu are various invertebrates, especially snails. With a good combination of circumstances, the crocodile will not deny himself the pleasure of enjoying other reptiles and mammals, for example, capybaras.

Intentional attacks on cattle and humans are very rare.

Juveniles feed mainly on insects and invertebrate animals, gradually moving to more high-calorie foods as they grow older.

Breeding

Compared to many related species, Paraguayan caimans are characterized by increased fecundity. Females lay an average of 30-40 eggs and passionately guard the clutch from any encroachment.

The mating season coincides with the rainy season. Males at this time become aggressive and desperately fight for the right to procreate.

The female mates several times with the winner, and, if necessary, with the defeated competitors.

Eggs are laid mainly in November or December in the coastal zone.

The nest has the shape of a hill up to 60 cm high and about 1.5 m in diameter. It is constructed from earth, branches and leaves. The sun and decaying organic materials help maintain the necessary temperature in it for the development of embryos. One nest can be used simultaneously by several mothers at once.

Incubation lasts about three months, during which the female guards the clutch. Sometimes a male also helps her in this matter. Just before the offspring was born, she breaks the nest and further helps young crocodiles to get to the reservoir. This usually happens in March.

The first days of their life, toothy offspring are under the care of the mother, and then go on to independent existence.

They become sexually mature at about 5 years old. Sexual maturation in females occurs when their sizes reach 120-150 cm, and in males about 160 cm.

The average body length is 2 m and the weight is 60 kg. The maximum length is 2.7 m. The back is painted in a dark olive color. The color of the abdomen varies from white to yellow-green.

Above the eyes there are characteristic bone outgrowths resembling glasses. The back and stomach are covered with keratinized bone plates.

In the mouth is from 72 to 82 sharp teeth.

The life expectancy of Paraguayan caimans in vivo rarely exceeds 25-30 years. Adult medium-sized individuals often become victims of anacondas and jaguars, and juveniles go to the birds of prey for lunch. In captivity, with good care, many copies survive to 50 or more years.

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