Crocodiles are known reptilian predators that have a fierce and violent reputation. What many people don’t know is that, if a croc isn’t hungry or threatened, they generally won’t go out of their way to attack anything or anyone. However, the sheer power and strength that these ancient dinosaurs are capable of make people very wary. However, not everyone is as afraid of crocodiles as you may think, including Chito Shedden, of Costa Rica. When Shedden found a dying croc on the edge of a river bank, he did something most people aren’t brave enough to do…
Crocodiles are found throughout the world, including North and South America, Australia, Africa, and Asia. The croc is the top reptilian predator, has a bite strength of 5,000lbs per square inch, have been known to grow up to 16ft in length, and, if that’s not scaring you already, they can easily weigh over 1,000lbs. It makes sense why most people would avoid contact with a crocodile like the plague, but Shedden’s unique reaction to the croc he found makes for one interesting story…
Chito Shedden is the local fisherman who found the croc, which he named Poncho, on the Reventazón River. Chito is not only a fisherman but an amateur naturalist and tour guide form Limon Province, Costa Rica. When Chito found Poncho on the banks of the river, he was on the verge of death—instead of ignoring the predator, the fisherman decided to take him home and nurse him back to health…
When Chito found Poncho, the croc was a skinny 150lbs and it was clear he wasn’t in a good position. When Chito came closer, he realized the poor creature had been shot in the both the head and the left eye, most likely by a local cattle rancher trying to protect his herd. Although it was a severe injury, Chito didn’t have the heart to leave the animal there to die—the danger in the air didn’t seem to influence Chito’s decision in helping the croc…
What Was It Going To Take?
Although the reptile was dangerously thin at only 150lbs, he could still easily injure a human without much thought or problems. Chito knew he needed help so he asked some friends of his to help lift the poor creature onto his boat so that he could take it home and nurture it. The plan was to get the crocodile back to a healthy state so that he could release it back into its natural habitat one day, and so it was decided his name would be Poncho, meaning strength. It was going to be a long road to recovery, but both man and beast were willing to make it happen.
The Best Nurse
Poncho got the best nurse known to man, as Chito never left his side. He made sure to purchase medication to prevent infection until the wounds could heal on their own, and he made sure to feed Poncho a diet made up of fish and chicken. He didn’t stop there however, man and beast quickly grew to respect each other—perhaps a result of all the nights the two slept together, side by side. A huge part of why Poncho was able to recover was because of the tender loving care that Chito was so willing to give. His empathy and compassion are what truly saved this animal.
Over the next few months, Chito fed Poncho by hand, even mimicking chewing motions in hopes of inspiring his new friend to eat. Chito is convinced the reptile needs his tender loving care in order to survive, stating it’s what he needs to regain the will to live. Chito treated Poncho as a pet, reassuring the wild animal that, in fact, the man loved him and wanted him to win. It seems as if Chito taught an animal that was believed to be incapable of love how to be affectionate—the two were even known to embrace in hugs and kisses.
What Chito Gave Up
Perhaps the most intense part of this story has to do with what Chito gave up for the croc—his marriage. It’s sad but true; Chito’s marriage ended due to the relationship he formed with the wild animal. His wife was unable to understand the connection they had formed so she decided to leave. What’s surprising is, if you ask Chito how he feels about this, he will tell you he wasn’t sad because he knew there was something special about his new friend.
Returning To The Wild
Chito followed his plan and, when Poncho was strong and healthy enough to return to the wild, with the help of the same friends, he was loaded into the boat. They released him near where they had found him, and the two parted ways. Although sad, everyone knew it was the right thing to do, especially Chito. When Chito woke up, however, something amazing happened…
Home Sweet Home
Instead of settling into the river he had grown up in, Poncho followed Chito’s boat home and surprised him in the morning. The croc was sleeping on his veranda and it was a marvelous sight to see. Chito realized the croc made his decision and so it was decided to move him into the lake on Chito’s land. In no time, the two got even closer and Poncho seemed to be loving his new lake.
A New Life
In time, Chito remarried and had a beautiful daughter, creating the family he always dreamed of. It became obvious that the croc responded to his name, and Chito began thinking that Poncho could be trained even more. To ensure his daughter’s safety, all precautions were taken and she wasn’t allowed near Poncho without her father around—after all, you never know. As time went on, Poncho began to learn more and more every day…
A Long Process
Poncho wasn’t trained overnight—it took over 10 years of constant interaction with Chito for him to become more playful and consistently respond to his touches. The two would swim together, suggesting the personal time created a unique bond between the two that only they shared. It wasn’t the same as with a dog because Poncho had strong predatory tendencies that he slowly learned to set aside when he interacted with his savior. So much so, that the two eventually started to play with one another…
The wonderful relationship between the two began to spark the interest of tourists and locals alike. The pair were such an interesting duo that they now perform every Sunday, right in their own backyard! What makes this story so amazing is the fact that neither Chito or Poncho began the relationship with the idea of performing, but the circumstances naturally created the opportunity. What’s even more special about their act, is that it’s completely natural for the two to effortlessly play with each other, and anyone who watches can see the bond. It all started because Chito would swim in the lake every morning to call for his friend who, every time and without fail, would appear and playfully roll around with the man who saved him…
As if their relationship and story couldn’t be any more heart warming, the two made their own documentary so that the whole world could learn about their special bond. The film is perfectly titled, “The Man Who Swims With Crocodiles”. There is speculation that, due to the injuries sustained by the gun shots, Poncho had (in fact) suffered from brain damage which caused him to be less aggressive than he was naturally supposed to be. The injuries could have affected parts of the brain, making him more interested in human compassion and interaction—after all, how many crocodiles will act like Poncho?