We owe a lot to this croc

When settlers came here, they saw so many crocodiles that they called the islands Caiman, the Carib word for crocodile

They say one should never smile at a crocodile.

But the antics of the newest attraction at the Cayman Turtle Farm will certainly impress visitors.

In fact, this nine-foot-long American/Cuban croc hybrid is even called Smiley. She first came to Cayman in 2006, explained Geddes Hislop of Cayman Turtle Farm.

“We caught her out in North Side off the Queen’s Highway and she’s been here ever since, in the back. We have been working with her and training with her as we have to deal with her, and it is a lot safer to deal with an animal that is trained. Now that she is out in the open, her formal training can begin.”

So far, customers have been very intrigued, said Mr. Hislop, because generally Smiley takes it easy in her enclosure.

“That’s what crocodiles do – just sit there looking like nothing is going on, but then suddenly they explode into action and catch their food to ambush predators. She really comes to life at feeding time.

“There is a lot of power in those jaws; they can crush the shell of a small turtle.”

Luckily, American crocs are not known to be dangerous in the sense of stalking people.

“In fact,

they will try to get away from people. When we were trying to catch her in the North Sound she was shying away and did not try and attack until we dragged her on to the beach and were trying to subdue her.”

Lasting impact

At her new home, Smiley mainly eats chicken. In the wild she would normally eat five to 10 pounds of food per week but could go up to a month without food.

The turtle farm is happy to be looking after a critter whose great-great-great-grandparents have had a lasting impact on the Cayman Islands.

“The reason we are called Cayman and not the Tortugas is because of Smiley and her ancestors. When settlers came here they saw these crocodiles of up to 10 or 12 feet. There were so many of them that they actually called the islands Caiman, the Carib word for crocodile that the Spanish adopted.

“Then in 1959 the last recorded Caymanian crocodile was shot in Little Cayman and there has not been a confirmed sighting since – until 2006, when this lady showed up. So that means to me that they were around for a while – just that they are extremely rare. This is Cayman’s largest native wild animal. And she’s really cute,” concluded Mr. Hislop.

You can view Smiley in action under ‘video reports’ at www.caycompass.com