The Orinoco crocodile is a critically endangered crocodile with a small population estimated between 250 – 1500 in the wild. Native to freshwater environments in Columbia and Venezuala, the majority of Orinoco Crocodiles can be found along their namesake river: the Orinoco River in South America.
The pale, tan Orinioco is known for its relatively long snout and piercing green eyes. It represents one of the world’s largest living reptiles, and is both the largest crocodile species and biggest predator in South America, with males averaging 13 feet. Though their diet mainly consists of large fish, they are known as opportunistic apex predators, and virtually anything within their range could be considered a potential meal, including reptiles, birds and mammals.
Due to extensive hunting for their skins in the 19th and 20th century, the Orinoco Crocodile is one of the most critically endangered species of crocodiles. During the 1940’s to the 1960’s, literally thousands of these animals were slaughtered in the Orinoco River, and the species came very close to extinction. In the 1970’s, the Orinioco was given protected status, but the road to recovery has been slow. In addition to hunting for its hide, more recent threats also include the collection of juveniles for sale in the live animal trade, pollution, and the proposal of a dam in the upper Orinoco River region. It is unclear how many individuals remain in the wild, but estimates range between 250-1500 individuals.