Geographical Range Brazil to Argentina (in South America)
Habitat Rivers, lakes, marshes, lagoons
Scientific Name Caiman yacare
Conservation Status Common

What's the first thing you notice about the Yacare caiman? Most likely, it's the distinctive teeth. In some individuals, large teeth in the lower jaw may pass right through the upper jaw and protrude on top of the snout. Yikes. It's no wonder this animal is sometimes called the piranha caiman.

Another common name for this animal is the red caiman, so called because of its reddish-brown skin. This reptile reaches a maximum length of about 10 feet.

The Yacare caiman spends much of its time in the water. This is where it finds food -- aquatic snails, shellfish, crabs, and sometimes fish and snakes. But there are times when it's necessary to head for land. Nesting season is one of those times. A female mounds up a nest and lays between 21 and 38 eggs, which hatch in March.

The Yacare caiman has a complicated conservation story. On the one hand, the species can be found in plentiful numbers in some parts of its range. For this reason, IUCN, an organization that determines species' conservation status, considers the Yacare caiman to be common in the wild. But this hides the fact that the species has been wiped out in some localized areas. The main threat facing the caiman is hunting for its skin. While there are local laws to restrict hunting, the laws are poorly enforced, and poaching remains a major problem.

The United States Fish & Wildlife Service has long recognized the danger facing the Yacare caiman, and currently lists the species as threatened. This listing provides the animal certain protections under the Endangered Species Act. For instance, it is illegal to import skins or live animals into the U.S. (except by permit for certain conservation purposes).

Did You Know?

The Yacare caiman used to be classified as a subspecies of Caiman crocodilus, the common or spectacled caiman. Now most scientists consider the Yacare caiman to be a separate species. And here's another interesting fact: It has the southernmost range of all caimans.