Pocho (crocodile)

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Pocho (around 1950-1960 in Reventazón River, Costa Rica – October 12, 2011 in Siquirres, Costa Rica) was an American crocodile who became world-famous for his relationship with Gilberto "Chito" Shedden, a local area fisherman. Shedden had found Pocho dying on the banks of the Reventazón River, and took the crocodile in whilst nursing him back to health. The crocodile refused to return to the wild and chose to stay with Chito instead. The pair became famous after they began performing together.

Discovery of Pocho[edit]

Chito, a fisherman, tour guide, and naturalist from Siquirres, Limón Province, Costa Rica, discovered a dying male crocodile in 1989, weighing only a skinny 70 kilograms (150 pounds) on the banks of the Reventazón River, close to death. Upon closer examination, Shedden discovered the crocodile, shot in the head through the left eye, was alone and helpless. The crocodile had been shot by a local cattle farmer while preying on a herd of cows. Shedden took the crocodile home in his boat. For six months, Shedden fed the crocodile chicken, fish and medicine, sleeping with it at night in his home. Shedden also simulated the chewing of food with his mouth to encourage the crocodile to eat, and gave it kisses and hugs while talking to it and petting it. "Food wasn't enough. The crocodile needed my love to regain the will to live," noted Shedden. He hid the crocodile in an obscured pond under trees deep in a nearby forest until he obtained the necessary wildlife permits from Costa Rican authorities to own and raise the gravely injured crocodile legally.[1]

Crocodile and man form a bond[edit]

After the crocodile, named 'Pocho', improved to normal health, Shedden released it to a nearby river to return to its normal life. The next morning, Shedden awoke to find that the crocodile had followed him home and was sleeping on his veranda. Living in the water outside Shedden's home, the crocodile, who made a 'decision' and preferred to spend the rest of his life in Siquirres with the man who saved his life, became a member of Shedden's family, along with his second wife and daughter. Shedden's first wife had left him because he was spending too much time with the crocodile. "Once the crocodile followed me home, and came to me whenever I called its name, I knew it could be trained," noted Shedden. "Another wife I could get. Pocho was one in a million."

Man swims with crocodile[edit]

For more than twenty years, Shedden swam with Pocho the crocodile in the river outside his home, mostly at night, talking and playing with Pocho while hugging, kissing and caressing him. Pocho the crocodile would always come to Shedden when his name 'Pocho' was called.

Chito and Pocho go public[edit]

For more than a decade, Chito and Pocho performed a weekly act on Sunday afternoons in a 100 square meter artificial lake at Finca Las Tilapias in his hometown of Siquirres, Costa Rica, performing in the water for tourists from around the world, demonstrating the unique and seemingly impossible friendship between man and crocodile.[2] A video documentary was done about Chito and Pocho's friendship 'The Man Who Swims With Crocodiles' [3] which was completed by South African filmmaker Roger Horrocks shortly before Pocho's death. Horrocks speculated in his documentary that the gunshot wound to Pocho's head might have damaged the crocodile's brain, whereby the usual instinctive behavior of the crocodile changed as a result, allowing the crocodile to be susceptible to human emotions when it was rescued from near death. Horrocks, noting examples where humans had been attacked by their Reptilian pets even after ten year relationships or longer, felt Shedden's life was always in danger when he stepped into the water with what seemed to be his loving 'pet', Shedden stated "After two or three years, something could happen, maybe... but after 23 years of loving each other, nothing has ever happened, so I don't think so."

One of Pocho's behaviors was to rush at Shedden with his mouth open when he entered the water, but he would close his mouth before he got too close, allowing a kiss on his snout instead.

Natural death[edit]

Pocho died of natural causes in the water outside Shedden's home in Siquirres on October 12, 2011. After the first 'human' style public funeral ever given a crocodile and attended by human friends and admirers, at which Shedden sang to his departed pet and held his 'hand', Pocho, a national treasure of Costa Rican culture, was stuffed. Pocho remains on permanent display behind glass in the Siquirres town museum.[4] Shedden is currently working with a new crocodile named Pocho II. Chito had frequently encountered the crocodile on the river near his house while fishing, and had brought the crocodile food, while the crocodile allowed him to pet it. Although he has made progress in establishing a relationship with Pocho II, the prospects of long-term success remain uncertain, as the circumstances are not the same as his unique special relationship with the original Pocho.[4]

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