Caiman moves into new digs at Natural History Museum

By Tony Parra

The South American caiman is in his new home at the Natural History Museum waiting for visitors and now all he needs is a name.

The Caiman crocodylus an alligator-like South American reptile, has been living in the Natural History Museum since Nov. 17. Marvin Lutnesky, biology department chair and director of the museum, said he and Huie Brown, a science technician, recently moved the caiman with a leash around the caiman’s snout to keep the snout shut for obvious safety reasons.

Lutnesky said they were able to determine the sex of the creature, it is a male. According to Lutnesky, another detail which needs to be handled is the naming of the reptile. He said they will have a naming contest to come up with a name for the caiman.

“We’ve had a number of people come in and see him,” Lutnesky said. “We haven’t had any tours, yet. This is a good public draw to the museum.”

Ryan Galloway and Jackson Powers are two elementary students who would like to go on a tour to see the caiman. Galloway and Powers are two fifth-graders from Valencia Elementary.

Powers said his way of persuading his teachers and principal to allow them to take a tour of the museum would be to tell them about the educational values.

“I would like to see it,” Powers said on Tuesday. “It would be an educational experience.”

Galloway said he saw a large alligator at Sea World. Galloway said he was able to stand close to it and the alligator moved around. Galloway said a nice draw to the museum would also be a shark.

Museum representatives had a naming contest for a snapping turtle they received and it drew people to the museum to view it and name it Turlock. Lutnesky said there will be a naming contest in the spring for the caiman.

He said the 3 1/2 foot caiman can grow up to eight feet and the display can accommodate the growth. Lutnesky said students from any of the schools in the area can take tours of the museum to view the caiman.

The display is made of walnut and oak with double pane glass windows, similar to windshield glass. The interior dimensions of the display area are 16.5 feet long by 9.5 feet deep in roughly a triangular shape with a pond with the dimensions of 10 feet by 5 feet and 18 inches deep. The caiman can wander around next to the pond for viewers to see him.

There were steps constructed next to the display so the children can get a better view of the caiman while he’s in his pond. Lutnesky said the caiman is being fed warm pork and chicken. The caiman is also being fed gold fish and Lutnesky wants to feed the caiman larger fish later on, such as carp.

The pond holds approximately 600 gallons of water with pipes underneath and heating units to keep the water warm. Lutnesky said the water is kept at a temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

The caiman was kept in a water tank in a research room behind the Science Building while his display was being constructed. Lutnesky said the caiman has been less aggressive since he has been in his new surroundings.