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Many times we observed these monstrous crocs in great numbers, especially in places where they are attracted by the smell of flesh or blood;

Never, however, had we encountered such dreadful spectacle. In general, the idea of the American alligator is very incomplete; Neither in size nor in voracity and malignancy, is it inferior to the African. The assembled beasts here numbering above 60, seemed perfectly set in place; they averaged between 15 to 24 feet. Two skeletons, which we brought to Munich, measured 12 feet long. The Indians assured us that the strongest among them should be 15 to 20 years old. This was not of the species observed in the river Sao Francisco and in other regions more southern, but a much stronger species, which we had seen in many places of the Amazon, and we found in ever greater quantity in the basins of the Western rivers. The shorter snout, more rounded, the black carcass with yellow spots and the size make it immediately distinguishable, from those animals of a minor species, brownish- green in color. The people of the place call it Jacare-acu, "Jacare-Grande " (1). Little effort was necessary to catch one of those voracious monsters. A tortoise full of air, contained inside a cage and fastened to a chain of iron, was cast from the fishing deck in the middle of the crocs, who soon set to fighting because of the prey. From all sides they attacked them, seeking to capture the bait, and finally the one with the most gaping the throat devoured it.

Crocodilius Niger. the black caiman

Crocodillus niger, the black caiman

(1) Lying on the shore or walking, the alligator of the Amazon (Crocodilius Niger, Spix) was less terrifying than in the water; Also when moving in water it was more impetuous. In general, it walks slowly, and then the belly and the tail are close to the ground; Only when in a race do they raise their tail obliquely. In the water, on the other hand, the tail seems to overcome the disproportion between its brutal body and its extended paws, so that its movements are extremely ferocious.

When enraged, it raises its tail high and beats the water, whipping it rapidly; And it is then that the movements of the head are controlled and of maximum ferocity. When, however, the alligator is quiet, barely do the eyes and the tip of the snout appear out of the water; And travels generally straight, here and there, without shaking too much water. On the lookout for poop, it is often immobile, and then its appearance of movement, is less dangerous than on land. The Indians claim that whoever wants to escape the pursuit of the alligator should dive immediately, because it grasps only the part of the body that is above water. Fighting with the enemy or chasing him, the croc redoubles the blows of its tail, trying to enrage the prey. However mighty your resistance, it will no longer keep you safe; The alligator turns its head from one side to another, until it sinks its teeth. It is extremely voracious and particularly prefers rotten meat but does not refuse any prey dead or alive. They say (perhaps it is one of the many legends of the Indians) that the crocodile, once having eaten human flesh, forever after seeks it with greater voracity and greater daring. Moreover, its ferocity and energy increase in the time of heat and spawn, which coincides in the Amazon almost with the same epochs of turtles.

The turtle couples do their courting on land or in shallow puddles of the flooded waters of the river. They live in polygamy. The female lays thirty hard, four-inch long, elliptical eggs in a shallow pit on the shore, covers them with leaves and sand, and stands on the lookout for certain danger.

When the cubs come out of the egg and enter the water, they are not rarely eaten by the great wader birds or the seagulls, and even by the ravenous male turtles. Without that, these animals would multiply in a terrible way. The Indians do not only eat these eggs, but also all the flesh of the body, although it has a disgusting musk smell, which is communicated by the glands of the pescoro. They scorched the meat over the fire and melted the greenish fat, with which they prepare the ointment and paints intended for painting the body. With a part of the turtle’s breastcoat, several of the warrior tribes that stand between the Negro and Japura rivers make their shields. There also resides, doubtless, the same species of alligator that, in addition to Crocodilius Fissipes, according to Dr. Spix, also inhabit the western regions of Solimoes, in the province of Manaus, where both are called Lizard.

Crocodilurus ocellata