Monday, June 1, 2009

The Crocodile Entry

Four heartwarming crocodile videos featuring Chito and his friend Poncho:

Here's part of an article by Mónica Quesada of Tico Times:
“Chito and Poncho are friends,” reads a sign at Finca Las Tilapias, Gilberto Sheedan's ranch near the Caribbean-slope town of Siquirres. Chito, as Sheedan is widely known, and Poncho, a one-eyed crocodile estimated to be 50 years old, are friends because they have spent a lot of time together during the past 17 years, since the day Chito rescued a near-lifeless Poncho from a nearby river.

Every Sunday at 4 p.m., Chito jumps into a 100-square-meter artificial lake he built on the 23-hectare property he inherited from his father. Once in the water, he searches for Poncho, wading chest-deep through the green water, calling quietly for his companion: “Ponchoponchoponcho ponchoponcho…”

Las Tilapias also offers cabins overlooking canals dug by Chito and inhabited by a variety of wildlife.Mónica Quesada | Tico Times

Once Poncho appears, Chito, who at 50 is the same age as his reptile partner, gives him simple instructions, peppered with Spanish slang.

“Mae, cierre el ojo a la güila (‘Dude, wink at the girl'),” Chito cajoles, and Poncho dutifully obeys.

Other commands Poncho follows include lifting his head and tail from the water, rolling over, and even allowing Chito to bite his fang. When Poncho is in a really good mood, Chito says, he'll venture putting his head all the way into the reptile's mouth, between his massive jaws.

Chito was working as a sportfishing guide 17 years ago when he found a three-meter-long crocodile dying on the shore of the Parismina River, in the Caribbean province of Limón. The crocodile had been shot in the left eye, probably by a cattle farmer protecting his herd, Chito says.

After enlisting the help of several friends to load the massive reptile into his boat, Chito brought the injured crocodile home to care for him, eventually naming him Poncho. He claims he healed the reptile with medicine, food, and, more importantly, lots of care and attention.

“I just wanted him to feel that someone loved him, that not all humans are bad,” Chito says. “I love all animals, especially ones that have suffered.”

During the recovery process, Chito stayed by Poncho's side, even sleeping with him at night.

“It meant a lot of sacrifice. I had to be there every day,” he said.

After Chito felt that Poncho had bonded with him, he started swimming with the crocodile. But it wasn't until seven years ago, when an employee saw Chito swimming with Poncho and told his wife, that “all the craziness began,” Chito explains.

The first time Chito and Poncho did a show was July 4, 2000, after Channel 7 TV News found out about the unusual pair of friends and went to film them. Chito says he never thought about putting on a show for the public; he only wanted to spend time with the crocodile “so he would have a companion.”

To help support crocodiles, make a tax deductible donation to Croc Encounters (here's their Facebook page, with great photos).

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