By Eric Robinson
It all started with a farmer’s bullet that took the eye of Pocho, a three meter-long crocodile.Pocho was found nearly dead on the side of a river by Gilberto Sheedan (aka Chito) seventeen years ago dying near the Caribbean town of Siquirres with a gun shot wound to his eye, probably from a cattle farmer protecting his herd. With help from friends, Chito loaded the massive three meter animal into his boat, took him home and nursed him back to health but with only one eye. Chito stayed by his side much of the time, even sleeping with him. Pocho’s appetite increased slowly to the present thirty kilos of chicken and fish he consumes daily now.
Chito hand dug the first hundred square meter artificial pond to contain Pocho on the seventeen hectare farm that he inherited from his father. After Chito sensed a bond with his massive friend, the two started swimming together.
Though Chito doesn’t have a written permit to have a crocodile in captivity, MINAE (the Ministry of Energy and the Environment) allows Chito to keep Pocho on his ranch as long as the ministry can monitor him.
Seven years ago, they started performing infront of spectators, and that’s when Chito claims his life really changed. Chito has developed a nice tourist complex called Las Tilapias with a restaurant and bar run by his wife, Olga, serving tipico food, a small swimming pool, and seventeen basic, clean, comfortable hotel rooms with private baths, some surrounded by the system of canals, that I estimate are a kilometer or more long that twist and turn through the dense jungle that Chito had dug.
As my girlfriend and I stood on a path looking over the low wire fence at Pocho swimming by himself in the pond, a large pelican with his huge long beak waddled up and stood between us and looked at the pond as well, completely relaxed, he just wanted to be with us for a moment to see what we were looking at! As we walked along the same path, I heard a bird cooing, turned and saw a large grey bird about the size of a pigeon with a red head about a meter from us in a bush looking directly at us, seemingly unafraid. I think all of Chito’s animals are pretty well fed to be so tame.
Chito offers boat tours of his canals, either with a small gas engine or paddle it with a guide (which is quieter, slower, cleaner, and less intrusive) where you will see several bird species, some quite rare and unique to this area, there are night and blue herons, hummingbirds, white and grey egrets drying their out-spread wings, a big family of howler monkeys who frequent near the hotel leaping from branch to branch, a domesticated and caged peccary (which is like a small hairy pig), some amazingly large iguanas and a few sloths if you are lucky enough to spot them. Snakes are more difficult to spot, as most do not like to be around human activity. The whole property is like a jungle zoo with few fences and walking paths and different indigenous animals around every corner. I’ve been all over Costa Rica and never seen anything quite like it, and so typical of Costa Rica in every respect.
Though Chito performs the main event every Sunday at 4pm when he jumps into the pond with Pocho, he also puts on free shows for house guests during feeding time. Chito puts his nose to Pocho’s nose and bites Pocho’s fang, has Pocho roll over, has trained him to lift his huge head and tail above the water, and maybe even puts his head between Pocho’s massive jaws. The two best friends are both about 55 years old, but neither seems to be slowing down. Crocodiles grow throughout their lives and Pocho is now 4.5 meters long, and looks very well fed, as Chito tickles Pocho in the arm pits and his fat rolls a bit. The show is excellent for people of all ages.
We have been looking for a neat experience to send people from Adventure Inn, and I think we have found it, the place is truly awesome! Ask us at Adventure Inn for information about very reasonably priced three day – two night tours to Las Tilapias, including pick up and drop of at Adventure Inn, comfortable accommodations, plus all meals, and jungle canal boat ride, $199 per person double, $149 per person quad (two to a room). Sometimes Chito even sings old favourite Caribbean songs at breakfast on his Karaoke machine, actually he’s not bad, quite the fellow, always happy and he deserves so much admiration for what he has accomplished.