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Amazon's Top Predator

Black caiman

November's Pic of the Month was taken by Tiago Quaggio Vieira, and features a species we don't see often enough here - the black caiman, Melanosuchus niger. Anyone who has seen black caimans up close knows how remarkable they are, from their colouration and patterning to their size and disposition.

Black caimans are the largest of the caiman species, with reports of individuals reaching 14 feet or more. Tiago tells me this particular individual is around 13 feet long, an adult male that lives in the zoo at Manaus in Brazil. The status of black caiman in the wild is variable - in some areas they are widely distributed but their numbers are very low, some still have reasonable populations, but many have been dramatically reduced by extensive hunting and poaching which still occurs. The main problem is a real lack of information on the species - it's difficult to assess a species' status in the wild if you don't have much information about its distribution. And that all costs time, resources and money, which is often seriously lacking. Hopefully the black caiman will remain Amazon's top predator.


Would you like to enter your best photograph into the 2002 competition? Send me a photograph and I'll include the best here each month. The winner will be voted for in January 2003, and will receive an Ilfochrome print prize to be awarded in early 2003. The only criteria for submitting a photograph is this: it must capture the attention.


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