Journey deep into Colombian Amazon to rediscover Apaporis caiman

By Claudia Polanco Yermanos

Ibagué, Colombia, Jul 31 (efe-epa).- A secret hides in the depths of the Colombian Amazon: the Apaporis caiman, a species discovered in 1955 by zoologist Federico Medem.

The reptile was lost for decades before being rediscovered by biologist Sergio Balaguera-Reina, professor of environmental biology at the University of Ibagué, two years ago.

Medem explored nearly 1,000 km of the River Apaporis, which begins at the junction of the Ajajú and Tunia rivers between the Guaviare and Caquetá departments in the south of the country.

At the Inaná Lagoon, he found caimans with unusual characteristics, such as an elongated, v-shaped skull like that of crocodiles and not the usual u-shaped one of their species.

He named them “caiman crocodilus apaporiensis” and formulated the theory that they only existed in the Apaporis basin due to the number of waterways there, including Jirijirimo falls.

Medem hypothesized that these watercourses formed a natural barrier that prevented the animals from spreading to other places.

After his death in 1984 the Apaporis caimans were scientifically forgotten and the area became a stronghold of Farc guerrillas fighters.

Until more than 30 years later, Balaguera-Reina decided to follow in Medem’s footsteps.

He says his passion arose when he was doing his undergraduate thesis on the American crocodile in Salamanca Island Road Park in the Caribbean.

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