Wild Animals/Caiman

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Question
Our names are Kai and Sukhsagar and we are in grade 3. We are doing an inquiry project on ' How can we as zoologists teach people about what animals need to survive throughout their life cycle'. We are studying about the caiman. Could you help us with...
What are their defenses and enemies.
What is the parental care? Most reptiles leave their eggs but some protect them. How do the caimans look after their eggs? (Do they)
Why are they endangered?
Thanks so much,
Kai and Sukhsagar.

Answer
Dear Kai and Sukhsagar

Thank you for your questions. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

As there are several species of caiman, I shall try and give you a general account, rather than answering your questions for each species.

Defences and enemies: http://a-z-animals.com/animals/caiman/ and http://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/caiman_facts/482/ say that caimans have few natural predators due to their large size, aggressive temper and ferocious nature. http://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/caiman_facts/482/ says the body is covered with hard scales that act like an armour and may be covered with pale stripes and spots that provide camouflage. There are bony ridges above the eyes. The long, flattened tail may be used for protection against predators. The strong teeth can crush food and provide protection.

Parental care: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alligatoridae#Caimans says that the mating cycles of caimans are linked to the rainfall cycles and the river levels, which increases chances of survival for their offspring.
http://a-z-animals.com/animals/caiman/ and http://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/caiman_facts/482/ say that female caimans build a large nest or a mound in the ground, which can be over 1.5 metres wide, where she lays 10-65 eggs. She guards the nest for 6 weeks and waits for eggs to hatch. The temperature of the nest determines the gender of the baby. Lower temperature is associated with development of females, while higher temperature ensures development of males. The newly-hatched young follow their mother to a shallow pool of water where they can learn how to hunt and swim.
 
Endangered: http://a-z-animals.com/animals/caiman/ and http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/kids/species-profiles/spectacled-caiman%20 say that humans hunt caimans for their meat and skin, which is used for shoes, handbags, belts and wallets. http://www.endangeredspecieshandbook.org/trade_reptile_crocodiles.php gives details about the trade in skins of caimans and their relatives. http://animals.howstuffworks.com/reptiles/caiman-info.htm says the black caiman is endangered due to habitat destruction.

I hope this helps.

All the best

Jonathan

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Jonathan Wright

Expertise

I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.

Experience

I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

Organizations
WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Publications
Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

Education/Credentials
BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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