An Unlikely Friendship
Friendship can be a beautiful thing. Not only is each one unique, but some of the best friendships come from the most unlikely of pairings. This story of friendship takes the term “opposites attract” to an entirely new level. For most people, being friends with a crocodile would be absolutely out of the question. Not only are crocodiles fearsome predators, but they also eat their own offspring. However, one man would defy the odds and learn the true meaning of love and compassion.
27 Years of Love
For this fisherman, a chance meeting with a crocodile would forever change his life. Despite 240 million years of killer extinct working against the pair, a crocodile named Pocho and a fisherman from Costa Rica would cross paths, resulting in a friendship that lasted 27 years.
The Beginning of it All
Pocho’s journey began when he was on the hunt in the rivers of Costa Rica, looking for his next meal. Unfortunately, he didn’t choose his dinner wisely and attacked a farmer’s cow. Well, as you can expect the farmer didn’t take kindly to the situation and shot the crocodile in the eye, leaving him for dead. Thankfully, what happens next is nothing short of a miracle.
Wounded and Alone
Gilberto Sheedon, also known as “Chito,” a humble fisherman out on the Parismina River, noticed the wounded crocodile on the bank. At first, he kept his distance, not wanting to tempt fate and wind up an unexpected meal. However, when he returned later that night he realized the crocodile needed help and decided he had to help the wounded creature.
A Daring Rescue
Calling his friends for help, Chito carefully moved the crocodile to his home, which rested on the bank of a lake. While the crocodile showed signs of mild aggression, he was too weak and malnourished to do much about it. At first, Chito’s family was NOT thrilled with the prospect of having a crocodile in the house due to his one-year-old daughter. Thankfully, his wife agreed to let the crocodile stay outside.
Nurturing the Beast
Refusing to abandon his new friend, and knowing he was feeling a great deal of pain, Chito continued to feed and nurture the crocodile who he believed could die at any time. Thankfully, fate had other plans for the croc and his newfound owner.
I continued to feed him,” Chito told local reporters. However, at first, the crocodile refused to eat. Eventually, the crocodile, who he named Pocho began to warm up to him and would eat chicken. Sometimes, Chito would even chew up the chicken for Pocho to make it easier for him to eat.
In an effort to show love to the crocodile, Chico began to pet him regularly. He wanted the animal to know that someone cared and that he didn’t have anything to fear. At times, Pocho wasn’t receptive to the act of kindness, but over time he began to warm up to his rescuer.
Chito admitted in an interview that he would sometimes sneak out of his house at night to spend time with the crocodile. It would take a full three years for Pocho to recover and to build trust with his new human family. As time went on, even Chito’s wife and daughter warmed up to the crocodile (although he didn’t make the best playmate for a little girl, that’s for sure).
Love is Love
As Chito and Pocho’s bond continued to grow, they began to take swims in the lake together. While Chito was careful to limit contact, it seemed that the crocodile enjoyed his presence in the water with him. Soon they began to develop a routine, and Pocho would even respond to his name when called. Who knew they were so trainable?
A Failed Return to the Wild
After a suitable amount of time had passed, the crocodile had fully recovered, which meant it was time to take him back to the river. Chito admitted he was sad to lose his new friend, but knew it was best for him to be released back out in the wild. However, Pocho had other plans and refused to go back in the river when he was left by Chito. Eventually, the fisherman realized he had to bring him back to his home.
You’ve Got a Friend in Me
It was in that moment, Chito and Pocho’s friendship blossomed and they would remain close for years to come. Chito told reporters he spent time with Pocho every day and their bond growing stronger as time went on. Eventually, Pocho had to have surgery for his eye, but even their time apart wouldn’t break their love for one another.
According to Chico, his friends and family were terrified for him to get back in the water with Pocho when he returned from surgery. It had been weeks since they had been in the water together, and many believed Pocho wouldn’t remember him. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only did the crocodile remember Chito, but he was friendlier than he had been before the separation.
Eventually, their unique friendship would catch the attention of the media, skyrocketing both the fisherman and crocodile to fame. The fascination with the two of them was to be expected. Could a crocodile really show love and empathy to a human? However, after spending time with Chito and Pocho, most would conclude that the devotion was quite real.
One theory that was developed by Roger Horrocks, the director of The Man Who Swims with Crocodiles, was that the bullet that punctured the crocodile’s brain had damaged certain receptors. This resulted in a type of reprogramming that could have created new emotion centers, leading the croc to develop a love for his friend.
The Show Must Go On
Whatever the reason, Pocho and Chito would eventually start performing shows for the tourists and locals. Chito revealed that Pocho loved to perform, and they would continuously learn new tricks to wow their audiences. The trust between the two of them was unlike any that animal experts had ever seen.
New Tricks for Croc
Chito revealed that he would constantly think of new tricks for the two of them to perform and that Pocho was quick to learn. From twirling in the water to kisses on the nose, these two found themselves in sync, 24/7. Unfortunately, what happens next is beyond heartbreaking.
A Sudden Passing
According to Chito, he and Pocho performed a successful show and everything seemed fine with the crocodile. However, the next morning he didn’t come when he was called. When Chito went to investigate, he found his longtime friend had passed away. It was determined the crocodile died of natural causes.
Knowing how much Pocho meant to Chito, his local community rallied around him and held a tribute in the crocodile’s honor. Pocho’s body was even preserved, currently on display in a local museum for anyone to see. It’s wonderful to see that despite being a crocodile, he brought so much joy to others.