Oct 18, 2013 04:24 PM EDT
Facts And Speculations About The Alligators Of The Rio Olympics (VIDEO)
Most officials agree that the 6,000 or so caimans living in Rio de Janeiro won't pose a threat to spectators of the 2016 Olympic games, but speculation remains as to how exactly the thriving population will react as their habitat becomes infiltrated by ongoing construction.
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Caimans, close relative of the alligator and crocodile but less aggressive, don't really have a natural habitat in Rio. They live in the in the sewage-infested lagoons surrounding the city, according to The Huffington Post. As development continues, some have already migrated to new ponds built outside the new golf course.
Over the years, Caimans have slowly integrated themselves into Rio's urban environment - not quite city pigeons, but by no means an exotic beast, The Huff Post reported.
With their hardy survival abilities and opportunistic appetites, caimans may best resemble rats. Few fish live in their waters so the reptiles tend to rely on scraps from humans, The Huff Post reported.
"Caimans are like tanks, a very old species with a remarkable capacity for renovation that allows them to survive under extreme conditions where others couldn't," said Ricardo Freitas, an ecology professor who runs the Instituto Jacare, or the Caiman Institute, which aims to protect the reptiles. "But the fact of the matter is that their days are numbered if things don't change drastically."
The problem is a disproportionate amount of male offspring (85 percent) most likely induced by high water temperatures created by uncontrolled sewage dumping. For biological reasons, high water temperatures make male births more likely, the Huff Post reported.
Freitas, who's tagged over 400 of the reptiles himself, has a reputation for trekking through the fetid waters and grabbing caimans with his bare hands. Besides the time he was bitten himself, he said he's heard of only one attack when a fisherman stepped on one by accident. For Freitas, the water was more dangerous than the crocs.
"I was only bitten once, on the hand," he said. "It was fine, although it got super infected because of the state of the water."
The caimans in action below appear to be in a more naturally prosperous area of Brazil with more fish to eat and less sewage.
The downsized alligators are most prevalent in western Rio, which happens to be the site of the Olympic village. Most events will be indoors so interaction will be restricted to the occasional sighting and the golf course, which will be Brazil's first public course, according to The Huff Post.
"When you have a natural green space like this it attracts the wildlife, which is what you want," Antony Scanlon, executive director of the International Golf Federation said. "The other thing to remember about these alligators is, if they do arrive, they arrive at night and we won't be playing golf at night.
"I don't think we're going to get a bite," he said.