Taking the Heat

30″ x 14″ original wildlife painting

It’s hard to believe that there are an estimated 10 million Yacare Caimains in the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil. Due to their extraordinary numbers, they are the primary food source for the jaguars in the region—and the main reason why the cats are the largest of their kind in the world (males top out at over 150 kg or 330 lbs!).

The Yacare Caiman is strikingly more photogenic than any of its cousins, the alligator and the crocodile. They are sometimes referred to as Spectacled Caiman and it’s easy to see why. They have beautiful mottled colours in their skin and gorgeous pink mouths. In the heat of the day as they bask in the sun, the caimans lie with their mouths open to eliminate excess heat from their bodies, thus reducing their core body temperature. By mid-day at peak temperatures, the caimans move to basking in the shallow water at the shoreline and you can see literally dozens of them at a time lining the river banks. Not surprisingly, it’s this time of day that’s also the prime hunting time for the jaguars!

The caimans featured in this painting were sunning themselves on a gravel bar. It’s hard to believe that with a set of jaws and teeth like these, the caimans still have to “look over their shoulder” so to speak, keeping watch for jaguars.

Aside from the exceptional and unique beauty that is the Pantanal in Brazil, what is most striking in this region is the intensity of the sun’s rays, producing daily temperatures over 40 degrees celsius (104 degrees fahrenheit). And yet the caiman lay there in that blazing sun all day.