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March 06, 2023

Abandoned caiman, a relative of the alligator, rescued from FDR Park

The 3-foot reptile was likely dumped by an exotic pet owner who no longer wished to care for it, animal control officers said

Wildlife Reptiles
Caiman FDR Park Alligator ACCT Philly/Facebook

A 3-foot long caiman, a reptile native to Central and South America related to the alligator, was found in FDR Park. ACCT Philly rescued the creature, which is believed to be an abandoned exotic pet.

An unlikely creature was rescued from FDR Park in South Philadelphia over the weekend.

On Sunday morning, police received a report of a reptile – initially mistaken for an alligator – in FDR Park. But experts from the Animal Care & Control Team of Philadelphia determined the 3-foot long creature was a caiman, 6ABC reported.

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Caimans are a species of reptiles closely related to alligators. The amphibious carnivores live along the edges of rivers and other bodies of water in Central and South America.

How, then, did a caiman end up in South Philly?

According to ACCT, it was likely an exotic pet that was abandoned there.

"If you are struggling to keep your pet, or have decided that having an animal who will grow to be 5 feet long, live up to 40 years, and requires a minimum small studio apartment that is half water (kept at a minimum of 70 degrees) was not the wisest decision you made, please DO NOT simply release them," ACCT Philly said in a Facebook post.

Caimans have dwindling numbers due to the illegal exotic pet trade and desire for their skin, according to ACCT Philly. Some caiman species are currently considered conservation dependent on the IUCN Red List.

ACCT Philly has found a placement for the rescued caiman, nicknamed "Cay Man." But it is asking rescue organizations that have experience handling large exotic animals to become a partner, because the shelter expects similar dumping incidents will occur in the future. 

This isn't the first time a large reptile was spotted in Philadelphia, although the last time was under friendlier circumstances. In August, an emotional support alligator was seen taking a splash in the fountains at LOVE Park.

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