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In the Amazon rainforest, two species of caiman live in the rivers and along the riverbanks: the spectacled caiman and the black caiman. Both of them are related to the American alligator and its larger cousin the crocodile.

Spectacled caimans are the most common species. They are called the spectacled caiman because their eyes sit on the top of their head and there is a small black band that connects the eyes, making the animal look almost like its wearing glasses.

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The Spectacled Caiman is one of the smallest crocodilians, usually only growing to nine or ten feet long. Caimans use their tails and webbed feet to swim, and they are able to swim very, very fast.

All caimans are active during the night. They are nocturnal hunters, and they eat just about anything. Caimans prefer water mammals, fish, invertebrates, amphibians, and water birds.

The caiman is threatened by habitat loss. When people move into the caiman's habitat, the caiman does not respond well. Caimans need large ranges to hunt their prey.

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The Black Caiman is almost extinct in many parts of its original habitat. However, there is a healthy black caiman population in the Pacaya Samaria National Reserve, because the park guards are working hard to keep poachers out. Protected areas like the Pacaya Samiria are an excellent way to ensure the survival of the species.

Three cheers to the park rangers for protecting the caimans.

For further exploration, check out these web sites

Wilderness Classroom's Rainforest Library

University of Michigan's Museum of Zoology

Enchanted Learning's Caiman Page

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