Yacaré overo o ñato, yacaré negro
The two species of the Caiman (Familia Alligatoridae) genre that are present in the Republic of Argentina are Caiman latirostris, locally known as yacaré overo or ñato, and Caiman yacare, known as yacaré negro (Martens, 2010). At birth they weigh a mere 40 grams and usually measure up to 22 centimeters in length. The adults grow to 2.6 meters long and weigh about 80 kilograms, making them a fairly small breed. The Overo Caiman (Caiman latirostris) lives in the wetlands of North-eastern Argentina, Southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia. The Black Caiman (Caiman yacare) is found in the wetlands of Southern and Eastern Bolivia, North-western Argentina, Southern and Central western Brazil and Paraguay.The Overo Caiman prefers an aquatic environment of limited depth and tends to look for areas with abundant vegetation. Meanwhile the Black Caiman is usually found in deep and open waters. Their level of activity depends on the environment in which they are living and the weather. This is most obvious in the winter when they are very sedate, choosing to only carry out a few steps in order to sunbathe or submerge themselves below water for a brief moment. Spring is the beginning of the mating season when the male species clearly mark their territory and service the females. The females then separate from the males and move to places where they can build their nests. These nests are comprised of mounds of vegetation, dirt, sand, branches and animal droppings that act as natural incubators to ensure that the eggs are kept at a uniform temperature for 70 days. In the wild only between 30% and 50% of the total number of eggs laid hatch. Many newborns do not survive because before they can reach a sizeable body weight the first frost sets in and a lot of them cannot tolerate the harsh environmental conditions. The diet of the Yacaré Caiman consists of fish and crustaceans and as a result they are a very important part of the natural ecosystem. Historically they have also played an important role within the local economy as they sustain the livelihoods of many indigenous people by providing leather and meat – therefore their use is still very much rooted in traditional culture. Today Caiman meat is still readily consumed in parts of Argentina where the species are located and ties to the past are still very strong. Their tails are a popular addition to many of the local dishes and in recent years they have been incorporated into many new recipes – often being roasted or grilled. The Caiman have been at risk of extinction due to decades of exploitation. This has meant a massive decline in their population and also marked the loss of a valuable natural resource for sections of the community. Currently a ranching system is being implanted to counteract this. The technique involves the collection of eggs from their natural habitat and artificial breeding follows. This method allows the repopulation of the natural environment and also creates a commercial model with regulations to ensure that the creatures do not face extinction again.