thought the legend of the horse whisperer was impressive, here's an animal
tale with even more bite.
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.
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.
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."
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.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.
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."
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."
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.
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. 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, including Crocodile Adventures, taking visitors on
touring cruises to see the pair. On the Crocodile Adventures website it
describes the spectacle as: "One of the most amazing things that no cruise
ship passenger will want to miss, the adventure show between the man and
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.
whose real name is Gilberto Shedden, was given hi 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."