The common caiman is indeed common - the most common, in fact, of all crocodilian species. It is also called the “spectacled caiman” because the ridge between its eyes resembles the bridge of a pair of eyeglasses.
Found from Mexico to central South America, the common caiman lives in virtually all wetland and riverine habitats in its range. It has also been introduced to Cuba, Puerto Rico and the United States. Adults can grow longer than six feet in length.
Females lay about 30 eggs at a time in July-August in a mound of plant debris, and then they stay close to the nest to defend it from predators like lizards. After about 90 days, the young hatch and remain in groups close to the female. If other females die or lack a maternal instinct, a single mother will sometimes take maternal duties for several pods of hatchlings. Juveniles eat mostly insects, crustaceans and mollusks. Adults take prey as large as wild pigs.
The bane of South American wetland species, habitat loss and degradation has actually benefited the caiman, eliminating species with which it would normally compete and creating artificial reservoirs in which it lives. Hunting, on the other hand, has dropped populations in some areas. Caiman skin is not ideal for tanning; only certain parts of its skin make leather of suitable quality. However, when other crocodilian populations became depleted in the 1950s, hunters began harvesting caimans. Caiman supply the majority of hides in America and is often sold as American alligator skin. Despite this, most populations remain viable, and the IUCN lists the species as one of Lower Risk.May 14, 2012