Juvenile caiman becomes star attraction at Victoria Butterfly Gardens


Vancouver Island is home to its share of apex predators, but the latest addition to Victoria Butterfly Gardens is far from home.

“Javier” is about the size of a large cob of corn, and he’s growing.

“From nose to tail the males are about five feet long, females tend to be a little bit smaller,” says animal curator Falon Lancey.

The creature in question is a juvenile Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman. “It’s part of a controlled alien species in BC,” says Lancey.

Butterfly Gardens secured a permit to care for the animal after it was seized by the federal government.

“It was transferred to us by Environment and Climate Change Canada. They had seized it as part of an ongoing court case.”

According to Lancey, details of why the animal was seized are not disclosed, but it is thriving in its new temporary home, in an enclosure in the back of Butterfly Gardens. Javier is displaying all the characteristics of a healthy juvenile caiman.

“They’re carnivores,” she says. “For breakfast this morning, we had two scallops and a full unpeeled shrimp with calcium supplement, so we’re doing a lot of seafood.”

It’s unclear at this point how temporary the arrangement is, but the visitor is attracting attention. People with season passes have watched the enclosure being built, and with the star attraction now in place, the questions are flying.

“We have a lot of little kids who come in and point and say, ‘Look, mom, it’s a dinosaur,’ and we can’t really argue with that,” said Lancey.

She says while caimans tend to keep to themselves and are not known to be aggressive, it’s wise not to get too close. “They’re terrible pets,” she said.

And while the juvenile caiman has a male name, the animal’s gender is still a mystery.

“At this size, it’s not apparent what their sex is, and it’s not especially relevant to the care,” said Lancey.

When the time comes, she says a renaming might be in order.

“It might be Javiera,” she added.

Jordan CunninghamJordan Cunningham

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