Yes there are Crocodiles in Panama

Today we found a free sample of a newspaper Panamá América outside our gate. Inside was this insert:

LagartoBlog

We hadn’t heard much about crocodiles here. In Florida it is well known that they are everywhere and you don’t swim in fresh water. Here in Panama people swim in the rivers all the time, and no one has mentioned any dangers beyond the boys jumping out of trees into the water. But, someone did mention a crocodile attack in Pedrigal where the boats are docked, so this would agree with the information that crocodiles are often found in areas where the fresh water meets the sea, at mouths of rivers and in the mangroves. Oh, and we can’t forget the crocodile in da Campo watering hole

I was also happy to see the effort to protect the wildlife here, even including something as dangerous as the crocodiles.

So, in the interest of useful information and improving my Spanish, I figured I’d decipher this flyer. Watch your toes when you go swimming in Panama 😀 And, excuse the nasty teeth photo in the header. I couldn’t resist.

Largarto Aguja –  (Lizard needle ? ) crocodylus acutus

Conoce y protege especies en peligro de extincion Meet and protect species in danger of extinction
Riesgos/Amenazas Risks / Threats
Principalmente esta especie es cazada por su piel y por temor a ataques; y también por la destrucción de su hábitat. Mainly this species is hunted for their skin and for fear of attacks; and also by the destruction of their habitat.
Morfología y Tamaño Morphology and Size
Es un animal de cuerpo alargado y robusto. Las patas son cortas y fuertes y están provistas de garras. La cabeza es triangular y el hocico alargado. En la espalda tiene un par de quillas que no se unen en la cola, la cual es musculosa y comprimida, y le permite nadar muy bien. La piel es muy dura y tiene un color gris verdoso, olivo o gris chocolatoso en la parte dorsal, y blanco cremoso en el área ventral.Es una de las especies de cocodrilo más grandes y puede llegar a medir seis metros, y alcanzar un peso de 400 kg. It is an animal with a body elongated and robust. The legs are short and strong, and are provided with claws. The head is triangular and snout elongated. On the back is a pair of fins that do not join at the tail, which is muscular and compressed, and allows it to swim very well. The skin is very hard and has greenish gray, olive, or chocolate gray on the dorsal part, and creamy white on the belly area.It is one of the largest species of crocodile and can grow up to six meters (~9 feet), and reach a weight of 400 kg. (~880 lbs)
Distribución a nivel mundial Worldwide distribution
Se localiza desde el sur de Estados Unidos hasta Venezuela y el norte de Perú. They are located from the southern United States to the north of Venezuela and Peru.
Distribución en Panamá Distribution in Panama
Se encuentra en todo el país, especialmente en los cursos bajos y las bocas de los ríos, especialmente los más grandes, y en manglares. They are found throughout the country, especially en the lower reaches and the mouths of the rivers, especially the larges ones, and in mangroves.
Hábitat Habitat
Permanece la mayor parte del tiempo en el agua y es más activo en la noche. Puede viajar grandes distancias por tierra. Es solitario y caza acechando a las presas. Pasa mucho tiempo en manglares y puede adentrarse bastante en el mar para cazar o viajar de un territorio a otro. They stay most of the time in water and are more active at night. They can travel great distances by land. They are solitary and hunt by stalking prey. They spend a lot of time in the mangroves and can venture enough in the sea to hunt or travel from one territory to another.
Alimentación Feeding
Se alimenta de peces, tortugas, y cualquier otro animal que pueda capturar. They feed on fish, turtles, and any other animal that they can capture.
Reproducción Reproduction
La temporada de anidamiento ocurre entre enero y febrero. Construye su nido excavando un heuco en las riberas de ríos o lagunas, que rellena con hojas y material orgánico en descomposición. Pone de 12 a 80 huevos de color blanco. La incubación puede durar de 60 a 90 días dependiendo de la temperatura que alcance el nido. Cuando los jóvenes salen del huevo emiten un llamado que atrae a la madre, quien los transporta al agua y los cuida por un tiempo. The time of nesting occurs between January and February. They build a nest by digging a hole on the banks of rivers or lakes, which is filled with leaves and decaying organic material. It puts in 12 to 80 white eggs. The incubation can last from 60 to 90 days depending on the termperature that reaches the nest. When the young hatch they emit a call that attracts the mother, who carries them to the water and cares for them for a while.

I wonder if the neighbor’s dog hates crocodiles? He had taken their sample newspaper and shredded it into little pieces! I’m sure he just thought it was nice of someone to bring him a new toy to destroy.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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16 Responses to Yes there are Crocodiles in Panama

  1. Roger says:

    It is very rare and not frequent the cases of Cocodriles or alligators atack in Panama. In the past ten years I have heard of only one attack of cocodrile in the canal area but it was very strange and rare.

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    • Kris says:

      That’s good to know, thanks 🙂
      Some of my neighbors seem more afraid of things than I would be (snakes, frogs, bugs, etc) but I haven’t heard anything about crocodiles, and we live next to a fairly large river so I figured they weren’t much of a problem. The crocodiles probably don’t want to be close to us either.

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  2. Dan says:

    They are commonly seen in rivers in Costa Rica, so I guess that Panama would have their share.
    There was an article from Austrailia while you all were gone. A couple of young men ignored posted signs, only one came back. I think they call them “Salties”.

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    • Kris says:

      We saw a small one in our river here once, and my neighbor who has lived here for years says she has never seen one.
      My husband told me about the Australian guy. Unfortunately some lessons are way more costly than you wish they were.

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  3. D. Quijote says:

    Hi,
    They are looking for -good- translators for the tourist website for Panamá. Your native language is English (translations are Spanish to English, French and I forgot what else) and you could really make a point to tourists with ease. Based on the complaints made about the website (translation and technology) I guess it could really use a hand.
    http://www.prensa.com/uhora/locales/asamblea-citacion-salomon-shamah-pagina-web-turismo-millon/200075

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  4. indacampo says:

    Did you hear about the record alligator someone just got in Mississippi? http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/02/20294992-we-chased-him-for-about-two-hours-mississippi-hunters-catch-record-breaking-gators?lite

    Funny about the mangroves, everybody knows they’re in there and yet they still let their children play in the rivers that flow through there. And the chitras are horrible in there this time of year!

    Great post Kris! 🙂

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    • Kris says:

      Dang! Those are some crazy big gators. Even the pictures are scary.
      Have you heard about any children getting killed? Hopefully the gators are scared enough of people that they stay away.
      Chitras? are those chiggers? We got bit some on our last visit to the river here and they seemed like chiggers that I’d had in some parts of the US. What annoying things.

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      • indacampo says:

        Yes, sand fleas. Little no seeums. I’m pretty immune to them now but a few weeks ago I took a walk on one of the beaches with some friends after we’d had a lot of rain. There are a lot of mangroves and there was no breeze. There must have been some different kind of chitra coming out from those mangroves because we all got eaten alive. 😦

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        • Kris says:

          Oh wonderful… not! I mostly have trouble working in the yard, those pesky things that leave itchy welts under waistbands and other places under clothes. I’ve been using repellent and showering after coming in and seem to be having less trouble now.

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  5. Elvira says:

    Hello Kris,I have to thank you for writing about all your trips and living in Panama.
    Because I live in the Dominican Republic right now, I am German, I do have a question.
    Do people just burn there household trash, or what do they do with it in Panama.
    Because here they do it incl. Plastic bottles which is of course very bad. I can smell the smoke almost every day. Maybe I should move to Panama, I was thinking about it before I came to the DR in Feb. Also I get my pension in Dollars and that would be much easier in Panama.
    I would appreciate your answer,
    Take care
    Elvira

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    • Kris says:

      In our area there is trash pickup twice a week. People burn yard waste sometimes but even that isn’t common. Usually it’s bagged for pickup or tossed into the woods. What happens to the trash after it is picked up I don’t know. I’ve never smelled burning trash here though.

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  6. Capt Dan says:

    Sorry Kris, but there are not crocks everywhere in Florida, there are however, lots and lots of alligators almost everywhere. They’re not the same critter at all. Crocks can be found in both salt and brackish/fresh water – gators are only found in fresh water. Crocks are much more aggressive than gators and have a pointy “V” snout, verses a gators “U” shaped snout. There are maybe a few thousand crocks in the southern most part of Florida. There are more than a million gators found in all 67 Florida counties. If one had to chose, it’s far better to have gators as neighbors than crocks – they’re not nearly as nasty. I enjoy your blog – was introduced to it by Richard “oldsalt42” whose bark is worse than his bite! He too has gone out of his way to reach out and form human bonds with his Panamanian neighbors as have you. Language is what makes us human. Not being able to communicate must be one of the greatest frustrations of all. You’ve both worked at learning Spanish and it’s paid enormous dividends to both of you. Best of luck!

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    • Kris says:

      Ahh yes of course you are right! I should know better, but they look enough alike I got lazy and lumped them all together. I will however stay away from both of them.
      Thanks for the kind words about my blog and my efforts to learn the language. I like people and like to talk, so for me I had to learn Spanish. I’m so happy that I’m finally understanding more though I still have a long ways to go.
      Richard? He doesn’t bite too much 😀

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  7. Randy says:

    Actually my 1st wife was from Agua Dulce Panama. Indeed there are MANY .. and many LARGE .. crocs in the country. They grow to monstrous sizes in the canal zone and along the entire Pacific Coast line especially. There was a river about 10 miles west of Agua Dulce called the Rio Santa Maria which was supposedly infested with crocodiles. I swam in it once .. but doubt I would ever do the likes again. I know for a fact there was a man (fisherman) taken there in early 2001. The authorities caught & destroyed the croc .. which locals said were 7-meters (over 20 feet !) as there were witnesses to the attack and upon opening the monster up .. revealed the man inside it’s stomach. They said he had entered the water to retrieve an (iguana) that he trapped in a cage from a tree limb hanging over the water. I saw the site with my own eyes where he was taken .. all the while my ex-wife family telling me “Cuidado”. Very tranquil water in relation to the rest of the river. Chocolate water. Even as I approached the water (from a stairwell leading down) I could see bubbles continually surfacing. Give me cold chills. Supposedly there was a poultry farm center nearby which threw their wasted meat & what-not into the river thus attracting the crocs. There was also a man from her barrio (neighborhood) in El Estero de San Jose which had suffered a croc attack in a local lagoon. People had said the croc took part of an ass-cheek which was probably a very lucky “near miss”. I saw this man on 1 occasion. But yes .. the crocs grow HUGE there and throughout Central America. It is not uncommon for people to spot them in the canal zone much larger & longer than their boats ! 16-18 footers on the regular. The American croc .. which is the species found in Panama .. is 1 of the largest species of crocodilians. Coasta Rica is well-known for it’s crocs & numerous attacks on people there .. yet Panama has it’s share of the beasts U better believe. “Cuidado” where U decide to swim .. !

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