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No flash photography, please

Bernard Dupont / Wikimedia Commons The black caiman can become stressed by too much flash photography from touristsBernard Dupont / Wikimedia Commons

For those seeking the thrill of seeing a dangerous predator up close, caimans are a good choice: with some practice, they can be captured and handled, especially young ones. One popular form of ecological tourism is the nocturnal safari, where people use flashlights to look for the animals at night. “During the day, it is almost impossible to capture them,” says Washington Mendonça, a zoologist from the Federal University of Amazonas (UFAM). But the flashes of cameras used by tourists can cause stress to the caimans of the Anavilhanas archipelago in the state of Amazonas. Even with a shorter interaction time, there were changes in the levels of the hormone corticosterone and the metabolite lactate. In the black caiman (Melanosuchus niger), lactate increased 2.4-fold during handling and corticosterone increased 1.7-fold during handling and 2.7-fold when exposed to photographic flashes. The spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) did not appear to be affected. Mendonça believes the best solution would be to focus tourism on the spectacled caiman and to prevent animals from being captured and photographed too frequently (The Journal of Wildlife Management, August 17).