Spectacled Caiman

Spectacled Caiman

Scientific Name: Caiman crocodilus
Common Names: Common Caiman, Spectacled Caiman

Maximum adult length: 2 metres (6.5 feet)


N.B. Exceptionally large specimens can be found in all species of crocodilian.


The spectacled caiman, also known as the common caiman, is found throughout much of Central and South America. Males grow to around 2 metres (6.5 feet), while females are smaller, usually around 1.4 metres (4.5 feet). The species’ name comes from a bony ridge between the eyes, which give the appearance of a pair of spectacles. It lives in a range of freshwater wetland habitats, and is quite adaptable, frequenting man-made water bodies, canals, etc. Invasive populations are established in Florida, Cuba and Puerto Rico.


The spectacled caiman is classified as Lower Risk/least concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

It is listed on CITES Appendix I (Caiman crocodilus apaporiensis) and Appendix II.


Red List Category & Criteria: Lower Risk/least concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2019
Date Assessed: 2016-02-08


Spectacled Status

Countries: Brazil; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; El Salvador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Peru; Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; Venezuela


spectacled range

The spectacled caiman occurs mainly in the Amazon Basin, although its range does also extend further north. If the environmental conditions become too harsh, they will burrow into mud and aestivate (a state of animal dormancy, similar to hibernation).

Spectacled caiman eat a variety of invertebrates such as insects, crustaceans, and molluscs. Adults eat fish, other reptiles, and water birds. Older individuals are capable of taking large mammals like wild pigs and tapir. Cannibalism also occurs, especially during dry periods when prey is scarce.


The spectacled caiman is very much an opportunistic and adaptive predator; to which it may owe its ecological success.

This species benefits from overhunting of competitive species (particularly black caiman), which occupy the same range. This allows them access to resources normally lost to these other species.


There are more than 1,000,000 spectacled caimans in the wild making them the most densely populated of all crocodilians.


The major threat to the spectacled caiman is now illegal hunting, while habitat destruction and environmental pollution, such as contamination with heavy metals, may also pose a threat. Most under threat is the subspecies Caiman crocodilus apaporiensis, which has a highly restricted range in Colombia, and is also severely depleted in El Salvador. However, in areas where the spectacled caiman has been introduced, often through the release of unwanted pets, the species may be responsible for declines in native wildlife, and is thought to have contributed to the disappearance of the Cuban crocodile from the Isle of Pines, Cuba.


The continued success of the spectacled caiman may rely on appropriate management and on the long-term viability of sustainable use programs.


Est. wild population: More than 1,000,000
Main conservation threats: Habitat destruction, pollution and illegal hunting


IUCN Red List (September, 2014) http://www.iucnredlist.org


At the zoo

Currently on display, we have Captain Caiman – a beautiful male caiman that, along with our female, has bred here at the zoo in previous years. The female was separated from Captain Caiman due to limited space in the enclosure as they grew.

In August 2017 we took in a young rescued Spectacled caiman from a Bristol reservoir who is also maintained off display until a suitable display enclosure can be prepared.




  • Clare Trussler
  • Croc Bryan



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