Pocho the crocodile and his best friend Chito: The incredible, viral true story
How a fisherman saved a croc from the brink of death, forging a 22 year bond
The unbelievable true story of Pocho the crocodile and his best friend went viral on Twitter today, and it’s easy to see why, as it’s one of the greatest stories of man’s bond with nature that we’ve seen in modern times.
For those who don’t know it, here’s the full story:
On the banks of the Reventazón-Parismina River in Siquirres, Costa Rica in 1989, a crocodile lay dying before being rescued by Gilberto “Chito” Shedden. A local fisherman who nursed him back to health and returned him to the wild, only to find the crocodile on his veranda the next morning. Marking the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
“Once the crocodile followed me home, and came to me whenever I called its name, I knew it could be trained.” said Chito.
The crocodile later named Pocho had been shot through his left eye by a local cattle farmer who feared that he was preying on his livestock.
“I just wanted him to feel that someone loved him, that not all humans are bad” Chito said speaking to The Tico Times.
During Pocho’s recovery period, Chito made sure that he was well fed, going to the extent of simulating the chewing of food in order to encourage him to eat. Chito even gave him kisses, conversed and slept with his new reptilian friend.
“Food wasn’t enough. The crocodile needed my love to regain the will to live.” Explained Chito.
Clearly only cold-blooded biologically but not in his nature, Pocho reciprocated the affection by rushing towards Chito with his mouth open when the fisherman would enter the water, but would close his mouth before getting too close so that he could be kissed on his snout.
The fisherman was living with his wife who had decided to leave him because he spent too much time with the crocodile.
Seemingly unfazed by his wife’s departure, Chito said “Another wife I could get. Pocho was one in a million”. He was right as he later remarried and had a daughter.
Fearing that the Costa Rican authorities would take away his new friend, Chito hid Pocho in a secret pond within a nearby forest. Eventually someone saw Chito swimming with the crocodile and reported it. Costa Rica’s Channel 7 then filmed the dynamic duo in July 2000 which shot them to stardom in the Chile, The United States and even the United Kingdom.
Luckily, The Environment and Telecommunications Ministry let the new celebrities live together as long as they could monitor Pocho. A veterinarian and a Biologist then began to feed Pocho 30KG of chicken and fish on a weekly basis.
The next ten years would see the two performing a weekly act every Sunday in his hometown of Siquirres where they would show off their friendship in the water for tourists.
A documentary titled ‘The Man Who Swims With Crocodiles’ was directed by South African Roger Horrocks to chronicle their unique bond. The filmmaker had suggested that the trauma to Pocho’s head from the gunshot may have damaged his brain, altering the reptile’s natural behavior which enabled him to feel human emotions after being rescued by Chito that fateful day.
Sadly every story has an ending as Pocho would pass away from natural causes on October 12 2011. He was expected to be roughly 60 years old. A public ‘human style’ funeral was held for the departed crocodile where Chito sang to him while holding his ‘hand’ and his taxidermied remains are now on display at the Siquirres town museum. As we near the 10th anniversary of his death, Chito is currently training a new crocodile called Pocho II who he frequently encountered at the same river near his house but how their friendship will pan out in the long run is uncertain as his encounter with the original Pocho was truly special to him.