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Dwarf Caiman (Paleosuchus palpebrosus) Fact Sheet: Managed Care

History of Managed Care

Zoos, general

  • Regularly bred in zoos and private collections in Europe and the U.S. (Trutnau and Sommerlad 2006; Stevenson 2019)

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

  • First dwarf caimans arrive at San Diego Zoo in 2013 (ZIMS 2020)

Husbandry at San Diego Zoo

(Lawrie Arends, Brett Baldwin, Brandon Scott, personal communications, 2020)

Shelters and enclosures

  • Large pool for swimming
    • Water temperature: 79-81°F (26-27°C)
    • Spend more time in the water as adults
      • Commonly rest with head at surface and body vertical in the water
  • Tree branches and rocks for hiding, resting, and sunning
  • Palm fronds for cover/shelter
  • Housed with freshwater turtles and cichlid fish

Social interactions

  • Can be housed together, if raised together
  • May compete for food (see "Enrichment and training," below)

Diet and feeding

  • Diet items
    • Small rodents
    • Croc biscuits
    • Enrichment
      • Fish
      • Worms
  • Feeding at San Diego Zoo
    • Younger individuals fed more invertebrates and molluscs, compared to adults
    • Juveniles fed 3 to 4 days per week; adults fed 1 to 2 days per week
    • Females consume more food during breeding

Captive breeding

  • Breed easily in managed care

Enrichment and training

  • Very responsive to food, especially when young
    • Offered puzzle feeders, such as boomer balls with favorite foods inside
  • Target training used for feeding sessions (prevents competition between dominant and subordinate individuals)
    • Respond to name
  • Live in mixed-species zoo-habitat spaces
  • Rocks or sandy areas available for sunning

Adapt Well to Zoos

Dwarf caiman at Detroit Zoo

Dwarf caiman at the Detroit Zoo.

Image credit: © Joy VanBuhler / Flickr. Some rights reserved; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. This image has been cropped.

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