Costa Rica’s Crocodile Man, Tarzan Tico – Town of Sarapiqui

Chito prefers a playful wrestle in the water with his best pal Pocho - a deadly 17ft crocodile

Chito prefers a playful wrestle in the water with his best pal Pocho - a deadly 17ft crocodile

IF you thought the legend of the horse whisperer was impressive, here’s an animal tale with even more bite. Chito wrestles in the water with best mate Pocho, a five-metre long crocodile, Chito and Poncho play in the water together

Rather than trying to tame wild stallions, fearless Costa Rican fisherman Chito prefers a playful wrestle in the water with his best pal Pocho – a deadly 17ft crocodile. The 52-year-old daredevil draws gasps of amazement from onlookers by wading chest-deep into the water, then whistling for his 980lb buddy – and giving him an affectionate hug.

Chico and Poncho swim together

Chico and Pocho swim together

Crazy Chito says: “Pocho is my best friend. This is a very dangerous routine but we have a good relationship. He will look me in the eye and not attack me. It is too dangerous for anyone else to come in the water. It is only ever the two of us.”

Chito made friends with the croc after finding him with a gunshot wound on the banks of the Central American state’s Parismina river 20 years ago. He had been shot in the left eye by a cattle farmer and was close to death.

Nothing like a nice belly massage

Nothing like a nice belly massage

But Chito enlisted the help of several pals to load the massive reptile into his boat.

He says: “When I found Pocho in the river he was dying, so I brought him into my house. He was very skinny, weighing only around 150lb I gave him chicken and fish and medicine for six months to help him recover. I stayed by Pocho’s side while he was ill, sleeping next to him at night. I just wanted him to feel that somebody loved him, that not all humans are bad. It meant a lot of sacrifice. I had to be there every day. I love all animals – especially ones that have suffered.”

Pocho love his neck rubbed

Pocho loves his neck rubbed

It took years before Chito felt that Pocho had bonded with him enough to get closer to the animal.

He says: “After a decade I started to work with him. At first it was slow, slow. I played with him a bit, slowly doing more. Then I found out that when I called his name he would come over to me.”

At one point during his recovery, Chito left the croc in a lake near his house. But as he turned to walk away, to his amazement Pocho got out of the water and began to follow him home.

Chito recalls: “That convinced me the crocodile could be tame.” But when he first fearlessly waded into the water with the giant reptile his family was so horrified they couldn’t bear to watch. So instead, he took to splashing around with Pocho when they were asleep.

Four years ago Chito showed some of his tricks to friends, including getting the animal to close his eyes on command, and they convinced him to go public with a show.

Both are friends that see eye to eye

Both are friends that see eye to eye

Now he swims and plays with Pocho as well as feeding him at the lake near his home in the lowland tropical town of Sarapiqui.

The odd couple have now become a major tourist attraction, with several tour operators, taking visitors on touring cruises to see the pair.

American crocodiles, which inhabit North, Central and South America, can live to around 70 years old. It is estimated that Pocho is around 50 – almost the same age as his owner. They are also said to be less aggressive than their Nile or Australian counterparts.

Chito, whose real name is Gilberto Shedden, was given his nickname by friends, who also call him “Tarzan Tico” – Tico being a familiar word for a Costa Rican. And he certainly plays up to the name, wearing a tattered pair of leopard-print shorts for his half-hour performances with Pocho.

A keen conservationist, he also offers boat tours, where he eagerly points out a variety of wildlife. But he only charges a few dollars to watch the breathtaking crocodile show, claiming he does not want to cash in on Pocho.

He says: “He’s my friend, I don’t want to treat him like a slave or exploit him.

“I am happy because I rescued him and he is happy with me because he has everything he needs.”

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  1. teo iorga says:


  2. ola chito comosta abla con mike je veux de ses nouvelle abiento dom asta la vita les amigo

  3. this was a crazy video i took in costa rica

  4. Nuria Zamora says:

    Donde podemos visitar a este señor y su cocodrilo. Tengo unos turistas que les interesa mucho conocerlos. Muchas gracias

  5. Absolutely awesome!! This shows crocs have memory,& emotions. Without the memory, the croc would forget why it should not eat him. Without the concepts of gratitude, loyalty, or companionship, the croc would not care about the memory & would eat him despite remembering how he was saved. This story should be worth far more than what all our news stations will present it as. Most scientific sources cite reptiles as cold blooded, emotionless creatures. I’ve seen several documentaries showing how they “mother” their young unlike turtles or snakes, but this goes way beyond that.
    This croc is wonderful.

  6. estamos ubicados en siquirres limon no en sarapiqui

  7. Crocs rule!

  8. I would like to convey my admiration to this man who like me obviously cannot bear to see any animal suffer.May he live a long and wonderful life. He deserves it.

  9. viqui says:

    I bet he feeds him very well before he plays with him, huh? A full stomache makes all carnivorous creatures less aggressive…

  10. This is soo wild. That guy is fearless. How do you ever work up to the point of playing with the huge croc?


  1. […] to do anything more. We hadn’t realized that reptiles ever responded similarly, but it turns out crocodiles and even snakes have also been known to cuddle up with affectionate mammals. Love by Graur Razvan […]

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