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Feed a Crocodile

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LISTED 38

One of the best ways of getting bitten by a crocodilian is being careless while feeding it (snake owners use the acronym SFE - "stupid feeding error" - to remind them who made the mistake that led to the bite). The caiman's behaviour during feeding time will vary between individuals, and also on the size of the animal. Small animals tend to be quite wary about feeding when they're being watched. They will frequently leave the food until the owner is out of visual range, or even wait until after dark before eating it. As the caiman grows and learns that the owner is not a threat, it will become bolder, often trying to take the food as it's being offered. If you're holding the food in your hands while offering it, then your hand is viewed as fair game. This is also a bad idea because every time you place your hand inside the caiman's enclosure (even if it's not feeding time) the caiman will look upon it as a feeding opportunity, which clearly isn't desirable.

Colin Stevenson points out how athletic caimans can be: "People new to this should be aware that caimans will jump for the food, and since they tend to close their eyes as they snap their mouths shut, they aren't always accurate! Mine will jump almost out of the water to get their food - in fact, if I held the food high enough, their bodies would clear the water!"

One way of making feeding safer is to offer food using a pair of tongs, or a similar device. One suggestion is to use a piece of piano wire, bent into an appropriate shape. In this way, your hand goes nowhere near the caiman's mouth, and makes it more likely that the caiman will take the offered food from the implement. If the caiman doesn't want to take the food immediately, it should be left on the land area, preferably on a shallow dish of some description - especially if you're feeding pieces of meat. Placing food in the water is also possible, although it can make quite a mess in there, especially if the animal bites into it and causes blood and other fluids to splash into the water (and all over the glass and furnishings!).