Black Caiman

(Melanosuchus niger)




Facts about this animal

The snout of the Black Caiman is of medium length, rather flat, broad and about 1.6 to 1.9 times as long as broad at the level of the front corners of the eyes. It has a bony ridge between the front corners of the eyes across the basis of the snout and some rather distinct longitudinal ridges diverge from the basis of the snout towards the nasal swelling. The front corner of the eyes elongated far beyond the level of the front margin of the upper eyelids (in contrast to all other crocodiles). The colour of the upper surface is uniformly black, in young animals with yellow crossbars, which are fading in the course of growth. Youngsters have 3 to 5 large black blotches on both sides of the lower jaw. The lower surface is uniformly light along the midline, without dark blotches. The iris is greenish. Melanosuchus niger is, with a length of 6 m (even up to 7 m) the biggest Alligatoridae species by far.

Did you know?
that, as a result of excessive hunting, black caiman numbers are estimated to have been reduced by 99 % during the 20th century? Population recovery today is impeded both by continued illegal hunting and through increased competition with the more numerous spectacled caiman.


Name (Scientific) Melanosuchus niger
Name (English) Black Caiman
Name (French) Caiman noir
Name (German) Mohrenkaiman
Name (Spanish) Caimán negro, Yacaré assú
CITES Status Appendix I, except for those listed in Appendix II (Ecuador and Brasil)
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Jason L. Buberal



Range Bolivia , Brazil , Colombia , Ecuador , French Guiana , Guyana , Paraguay (?), Peru , Venezuela (?)
Habitat Various freshwater habitats
Wild population Approx.: up to 1,000,000 in 2009 (Crocodilian 2012). In some parts of its range the species is threatened but in other parts the populations have recovered due to strict conservation measures and controlled management, in particular through ranching.
Zoo population 6 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo

Black Caiman


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 42 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Jason L. Buberal

Why do zoos keep this animal

The black caiman is currently not threatened with extinction and zoos keep the species primarily for educational purposes and as an ambassador species for their threatened freshwater habitats. This large species is indeed to be sonsidered in its range as a flagship species.