Did you know that Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman is the smallest of all crocodilian species? More commonly known as the "Dwarf Caiman", these animals are frequently kept as pets, though they may be harder to find in the pet trade than some of the other Caimans.
In the wild, Dwarf Caimans, also known as "Smooth Fronted Caimans" hide during the day in burrows or vegetation. They are active at night, when they forage for food. In the wild, the Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman eats fish, mollusks, or crustaceans. Commonly found in pairs or alone, they appear to prefer quickly moving or turbid waterways. In captivity and in the wild, they are nocturnal and will rarely eat in the daylight hours. Dwarf Caimans need less water in their enclosures than other crocodilians and will usually only soil the land areas of their enclosures, making them a bit easier to clean up after than many other caimans. However, they are quite territorial. Dwarf Caimans tend to be quite aggressive when cornered. Generally, Cuvier's Dwarf Caimans need both land and water areas. It is recommended that they be kept in an enclosure that has a land size of at least three times their length (snout to vent) by four times their length. The water should be about four times their length (snout to vent) by five times their length. They will usually appreciate a floating log or plank under which they may hide or shelter in the water. Dwarf Caimans should be fed with tongs so your hands are well away from their mouths! Often they do well on small rodents, fish, or even large insects. Generally they are fed every two or three days, although baby Dwarf Caimans may need a bit of care and patience, since they are generally not good feeders. It is generally not advisable to handle Cuvier's Dwarf Caimans, as this may stress them. They will often try to escape and are considered shy, but they may bite if cornered.
At maturity, male Dwarf Caimans usually measure about five feet in length (1.5 to 1.6 meters) with females being slightly smaller. They are the smallest living crocodilian. Their skins are heavily ossified, as are their upper eyelids in particular. Their irises are brown. The skulls of Dwarf Caimans are rather high and are often described as shaped similar to those of a dog. The heads are reddish brown in color. The lower jaw in Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman has alternating dark colored blotching or banding. The back is so dark as to be almost black, and the underside is a creamy color with darker splotches. The tails of Cuvier's Dwarf Caimans have dark and light bands or marks that alternate. The tails are marked with a crest of scales, and over almost the entire body, the scales are keeled. Usually the tail makes up a little less than half of the entire length of the caiman. The Dwarf Caiman may be distinguished from other Caimans by the fact that it lacks an Inter-orbital ridge.
Dwarf Caimans are native to South America, and though they are often kept as pets, they may be much more uncommon in captivity than other species of crocodilians. Because their skins are so heavily ossified, they are rarely hunted for hide. Despite this fact, the Dwarf Caiman is endangered in the wild. Cuvier's Dwarf Caimans are not legal in all places. In some places, laws require that they be insured against damage they could inflict or that their enclosures must meet certain standards.