Last Updated on July 14, 2021 by MyGh.Online
For over 20 years, a man and a crocodile enjoyed a close, seemingly impossible friendship.
Gilberto “Chito” Shedden found the fearsome beast in 1989 on the banks of Costa Rica’s Reventazón River, where it was dying of a gunshot wound.
For six months, Chito nursed the mortally wounded croc back to health, feeding it some 70lb of chicken and fish every week and showing it plenty of affection.
“I kept giving him and giving him food.,” he said. “At first he wouldn’t eat it, but then he began to eat. I kept feeding him chicken until he started looking good. I would try to pet him so he would feel that I cared about him.
“When I would touch him, he would sometimes get a little irritated, so I kept on caressing and caressing him. And I would say, relax, relax. I want to be your friend. Behave nicely ’cause you won’t be bothered anymore.”
But “food wasn’t enough,” Chito said. “The crocodile needed my love to regain the will to live.”
Chito spent so much time with his beloved crocodile that his wife left him. Chito wasn’t bothered by that. “Another wife I could get,” he said. “Pocho was one in a million.”
Eventually the animal, which Chito had nicknamed Pocho, was well enough to be returned to the wild and he released it in a river near his home.
But the following morning, Chito found his scaly friend sleeping outside his home. The croc had “made a decision” to remain with his human friend.
He began performing with the reptile for small crowds, saying: “Once the crocodile followed me home, and came to me whenever I called its name, I knew it could be trained.”
Costa Rica’s Channel 7 news broadcast a clip of Chito and Pocho together in July 2000, and after that their fame rapidly spread across the globe.
Every Sunday, for over two decades, Chito, wearing nothing but a scruffy old pair of leopard-print board shorts and a bandana, would dive into a lake near his home. Pacho would race towards him, deadly jaws wide open as if he was about to attack, only to close his mouth at the last moment and receive a kiss on the snout from his human soulmate.
Sam Van Everbroeck, a fan of the pair who would regularly watch Chito’s unique performances in the tropical town of Sarapiqui, told reporters: “It’s incredible, I come every week to see it.”
Chito would charge onlookers just $2 for the weekly shows, saying “He’s my friend. I don’t want to treat him like a slave I don’t want to exploit him.”
Not only tourists, but noted scientists and animal behaviour experts would to see Chito and Pocho splashing around in the lake.
The croc’s gentle behaviour was unprecedented. South African filmmaker Roger Horrocks, who made a documentary about Chito and Pocho, theorised that the bullet wound – caused by a farmer trying to protect his livestock – might have affected Pocho’s brain and destroyed his natural predatory instincts.
Horrocks warned that even after years of appearing to be tame, wild animals can revert to their true nature without warning. But Chito believed in the bond between him and his reptilian pal: “After two or three years, something could happen, maybe… but after 23 years of loving each other, nothing has ever happened, so I don’t think so.”
Eventually, Pocho died of natural causes – nearly 23 years after being shot in the head. After a touching “human-style” funeral in which Chito sang to his dead pet and held its scaly paw, the animal was stuffed and mounted in in Chito’s home.
Chito is now trying to train a second Pacho, but the magic that created the bond between man and beast may never be recreated.
“It’s a little harder,” he told NPR Radio. “There’s a less closeness now, but with time, a little love, peace, patience for the animal – and then you can achieve a lot. I am on track, little by little.
“Hopefully in two years we can be good enough friends to do shows.”