Which of your pets has been the most dangerous? Whatever it is, it’s no match for a five-meter-long, 500-kilogram crocodile!
Yet, this is the pet that Gilberto Shedden, a Costa Rican, ended up with. For more than 20 years, he swam in the river with Pocho, a massive and terrifying-looking crocodile.
Pocho was discovered dead on the banks of the nearby Reventazón River in 1989 by Shedden, a fisherman, tour guide, and naturalist from Siquirres, Limón Province, Costa Rica. He realized that the crocodile had been shot in the head through the left eye upon closer inspection (as it turns out, by a local cattle farmer, enraged by the animal preying on his herd of cows).
Shedden returned home with the crocodile in his boat. He made the decision to nurse him back to health.
Shedden fed the crocodile 30 kg (66 lb) of fish and chicken every week for six months, and even slept with it in his house at night. He also gave it kisses and cuddles while chatting to it and touching it to encourage it to eat by simulating food chewing with his lips. Shedden subsequently remarked that feeding the crocodile food would not have been enough to help it recover, and that “the crocodile needed my love to restore the desire to live.”
Pocho was the name he gave to the crocodile. Shedden had to secure the required wildlife licenses from Costa Rican authorities in order to legally own and nurture Pocho. He kept the crocodile in a hidden pond with a heavy overhanging canopy of trees deep in a neighboring forest till that happened.
Shedden released Pocho in a neighboring river as his health recovered, intending to reintroduce him to the wild. The next morning, though, the guy discovered the crocodile had followed him home and was resting on his balcony.
Pocho was allowed to stay by Shedden. The crocodile, together with Shedden’s second wife and daughter, resided in the lake outside his house from then on and was considered a member of his family. (His first wife had walked out on him because he spent too much time with the crocodile.)
Shedden swam with the crocodile in the river outside his house for more than two decades, primarily at night, conversing and playing with Pocho while hugging, kissing, and stroking him. He even got the reptile to reply when his name was shouted.
Shedden and Pocho performed a weekly routine for visitors from all over the globe in a 100 m2 (1,100 sq ft) artificial lake at Finca Las Tilapias in Siquirres, Costa Rica, for more than a decade. South African filmmaker Roger Horrocks caught the couple soon before Pocho’s death in the video documentary ‘The Man Who Swims With Crocodiles.’ He theorized that the gunshot wound to Pocho’s skull had injured the crocodile’s brain, causing the crocodile’s instinctual behavior to change. The filmmaker thought that Shedden’s life was in risk every time he walked into the water with the crocodile, citing cases of humans being attacked by their reptile pets even after a decade or more of intimate ownership.
“After two or three years, anything may happen, maybe…,” Shedden remarked. But nothing has happened in 23 years of loving each other, so I don’t think so.”
No, they were simply too near to each other for something like that to occur. Consider this: when Pocho entered the water, one of his actions was to dash towards Shedden with his jaws open. Before approaching him too closely, the crocodile shut his lips and kissed him on the snout instead. It’s the ideal connection.
On October 12, 2011, Pocho died of natural causes in the water near Shedden’s house in Siquirres. The crocodile was given a public funeral, which was attended by friends and fans. While clutching the crocodile’s ‘hand,’ Shedden sang to it. Pocho’s taxidermied remains are on exhibit at the Siquirres municipal museum behind glass on a permanent basis.
Shedden is now working with Pocho II, a new crocodile. The man had seen the crocodile on the river near his house several times while fishing and had fed it, while the animal allowed him to pat it. However, because the conditions are not the same as Shedden’s bond with the original Pocho, the chances of long-term success are slim.
Pocho was most likely a once-in-a-lifetime gift, but he was surely well-deserved! Bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, by