This is an incredible true story of a fisherman who saved a crocodile from the brink of death and forged a 22-year friendship. 🐊
It is easy to see how this unbelievable story went viral, as it is a great example of the bond humans have with nature.
The friendship was born in 1989 on the banks of the Reventazón-Parismina River in Siquirres, Costa Rica.
A dying crocodile was rescued by Gilberto “Chito” Shedden, a local fisherman. Chito nursed the croc back to health and returned him to the wild.
Little did he know that he would find the crocodile on his veranda the next morning, marking the beginning of a magical 22-year friendship.
“Once the crocodile followed me home, and came to me whenever I called its name, I knew it could be trained.” said Chito.
Later named Pocho, the crocodile had been shot in his left eye by a cattle farmer who was afraid he would prey 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.
When Pocho was recovering, Chito made sure he was always fed properly. Chito even gave him kisses, chatted to him, and slept nearby.
“Food wasn’t enough. The crocodile needed my love to regain the will to live.” Explained Chito.
Contrary to his cold-blooded biology, Pocho reciprocated the affection by running at Chito with his mouth open when he entered the water but would then shit his mouth before he got too close so that he could be kissed on his snout!
Chito feared that the authorities would take away his reptilian friend, so he hid Pocho in a secret pond in forest nearby.
Eventually, someone spotted Chito going for a swim with the crocodile and reported it.
Costa Rica’s Channel 7 then filmed the pair in 2000 which catapulted them to fame in Chile, The United States, and even the United Kingdom.
The Environment and Telecommunications Ministry let the celeb pair 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.
This year saw the 10th anniversary of his death, and 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.