Animal keepers at Sheffield Tropical Butterfly House are thrilled their long time resident 'Darwin', the Spectacled Caiman has taken so well to the surprise arrival of a second Caiman this week!
Tropical House Keeper, Laura Martin, explains how visitors may tell the two apart, ?'Darwin' is actually a female (this was established after she was named!); females are smaller than males, reaching up to around 5 feet long, whereas males grow up to approximately 8 feet long. Fifteen year old ?Pedro? is only slightly longer head to tail than thirteen year old ?Darwin?, but is a much ?chunkier? build, has more prominent tail stripes and is slightly lighter in colour.?
Found in Central and South America, the Spectacled Caiman is a relatively small species of crocodilian and is believed to be the most common. Their name relates to the bony ridge between their eyes, giving the appearance of spectacles. They inhabit rivers and lowland wetland areas and prefer fresh water but are also able to tolerate salt water; their adaptability is thought to be one of the reasons for the species? success. Young Spectacled Caimans mainly feed on insects, crustaceans and molluscs, with adults feeding on fish, reptiles and water birds. Large adults are also known to prey on midsized mammals such as wild pigs.
?Safety is absolutely paramount when dealing with such a powerful predator, so the team were thoroughly briefed before entering the enclosure and knew to respect how potentially dangerous both of them could be.? explains?Zoo Curator and Manager, Andrew Reeve. ?Darwin has had the enclosure to herself for many years so was understandably territorial when Pedro was first released with her. There was a bit of hostility, as expected, for the first couple of hours, but they quickly settled down and seem to be very comfortable in each other?s company already.?
Visitors may see Darwin and Pedro on display now in their private pool in the Butterfly House, along with free-flying butterflies, birds and bats. The new male Caiman is the latest of many new animal arrivals at the popular wildlife attraction this year. ?The Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife and Falconry Centre is located 5 minutes from the M1, junction 31 and is open daily. See www.butterflyhouse.co.uk to plan your visit.