Caiman recovering from illness

The resident caiman at Boatswain’s Beach is on the mend following a spell of illness.

A couple of months ago, the spectacled caiman (from the crocodile family), scraped a leg on concrete in her pen and it became infected, Curator Terrestrial Exhibits and Education Geddes Hislop explained.

‘We had to take her out and change her accommodations,’ he said.

It took about a month to treat the croc, once they discovered what was ailing it.

He said that there is a qualified veterinarian on staff at Boatswain’s Beach, although not licensed in Cayman. Alongside this vet, Mr. Hislop explained, they also worked with vets from the Department of Agriculture and the St. Matthew’s University School of Veterinary Medicine.

But since a Caiman is an exotic creature, additional help was needed. This came from consulting with Disney Animal Kingdom in the US on her condition.

The most difficult part was actually diagnosing the problem, Mr. Hislop explained.

Once that was done it was a case of treating the creature through special medications ordered from the US.

She is now recuperating at her original accommodations and is much better, according to Mr. Hislop.

She has a salt water lake there, and the water in the fresh water lake, also in her living quarters, has been changed. Surfaces in the pen have been painted with non-abrasive paint so there are no sharp edges to ensure that she does not get scraped again, he said.

Mr. Hislop said that according to Disney Animal Kingdom this type of ailment is common for a crocodilus in captivity.

When asked if he feels that a resident vet who specialises in exotic creatures should be employed, Mr. Hislop said no, that the vets in question knew what they were doing. The difficult part, he said, was the diagnosis. Tests had to be conducted on the reptile and were then sent to the US for scrutiny.

‘Since we don’t have the facilities for treating a caiman here it just takes a while to get things done,’ he said.

‘Once we figured out what was ailing her it was fairly straightforward to treat,’ he said.

While her pen was being upgraded, the animal stayed in the suppository building where ill animals are quarantined.

She returned to her regular pen on Saturday.

The spectacled caiman has been living at Boatswain’s Beach since the beginning of the year. She came from a conservation breeding facility in Trinidad.

Historically there were two species of crocodile native to the Cayman Islands (Crocodylus Rhombifer and Crocodylus Acutus), which are now extinct in Cayman and critically endangered in other parts of their range.

Although the spectacled caiman is not native to the Cayman Islands, the exhibit at Boatswain’s Beach is meant to represent the larger species of now endangered American and Cuban crocodiles that were once abundant on Grand Cayman, but were hunted to extinction here by early settlers. The spectacled caiman is present throughout most of the Caribbean, Central America and northern South America. It is named for the ridge of bone between the two eyes that gives a spectacled appearance. Its natural diet ranges from crabs and mollusks to fish, small reptiles and birds. Caimans are generally not aggressive toward humans unless provoked, and the resident caiman at Boatswain’s Beach is quite shy. She is over six years old and has bred twice.

Although Columbus sighted the Cayman Islands in 1503 and named them Las Tortugas after seeing so many turtles in the sea, the name was later changed to Cayman, referring to the caiman crocodiles that roamed the islands.