While filming river dolphins in the Amazon, we were lucky enough to film and photograph a black caiman research project in the Rupununi region of southwest Guyana. Named for the Rupununi river which runs through the region, this area boarders the Brazilian Amazon and is rich in biodiversity.
The black caiman (Melanosuchus niger) can reach between 5 and 6 meters in length. As the largest predator in the Amazon Basin, the black caiman is at the apex of the local food chain. Once hunted for it’s valuable skin, this species is making a steady comeback, but still listed as ‘conservation dependent’ and at risk from things such as habitat loss.
Caiman research often necessitates catching the animals for analysis of size and growth rates, as well as tagging which helps researchers to understand local abundance and population trends. One such study, led by Dr. Adam Rosenblatt, seeks to enhance the ecological understanding of these predators and help to establish better protocols for human/caiman interactions within the watershed.
Once caught, each caiman is weighed and measured, gender is identified, and the animal is tagged and marked for future identification. This helps researchers track how the animals are moving through the river basin, and estimate abundance in the area.
When the work up is complete, the animals are released back into the river and swim off into the night. This project has been important for not only furthering the understanding of black caimans in the Rupununi River Ecosystem, but for developing conservation protocols and enhancing the research skills of the local community.
More images from the area can be found in our Amazon Gallery