Rio Olympics Could Also Play Host To Caiman
October 21, 2013

Could Alligator-Like Creatures Disrupt The 2016 Olympic Games?

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Olympians are used to overcoming obstacles in their quest for the gold medal, but golfers hoping to take to the links at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games could have more than water hazards and sand traps to deal with.

Recently-published media reports have suggested that caimans, alligator-like creatures that can grow to be 10-feet long, have taken up residence at a huge lagoon system west of the Brazilian city, near both the Olympic golf course and the Olympic village that will serve as the residence of the athletes during the duration of the Games.

According to BBC News, as many as 6,000 of the creatures are believed to be living in that lagoon system. Experts told the British news agency that the creatures may have been attracted there because pollution has caused the lagoon waters to become warmer.

Even if they do wander close to the Olympic village, however, BBC says that that the athletes shouldn’t be too concerned. Caimans are smaller and less aggressive than crocodiles or alligators, they explained, and are not considered to be dangerous to humans.

Is there a possibility that they could disrupt the first Olympic golf tournament to take place in more than a century? Probably not, according to Bloomberg’s Tariq Panja. Anthony Scanlon, executive director of the International Golf Federation, told reporters late last week that the tournament organizers will “have a strategy in place that will minimize any possibility of a player or spectator coming across these.”

Some caimans have reportedly migrated towards small ponds on the golf course site, but Scanlon assures athletes and spectators that the potential danger is “minimal.” He added that, even if the lizards were to encroach upon the golf course, they would do so at night, during times when no competition would be taking place.

If there is any danger, it will be because biologists are uncertain how the caimans will react to ongoing Olympic-related construction, Scott Bickard of the University Herald reported on Friday.

He explains that the creatures have “integrated themselves into Rio's urban environment,” comparing them to rats in the way that their survival often depends on their ability to acquire scraps that people leave behind.

“Caimans are like tanks, a very old species with a remarkable capacity for renovation that allows them to survive under extreme conditions where others couldn't,” said Ricardo Freitas, an ecology professor who runs the Instituto Jacare (the Caiman Institute), an organization aiming to help protect the reptiles. “But the fact of the matter is that their days are numbered if things don't change drastically.”