Four years ago today Gilberto Shedden lost his best friend.
Shedden, or Chito as he is better known in his hometown of Siquirres, first met his friend Pocho in 1989 when the latter was stranded on a river bank with a fresh bullet wound in his left eye. Chito brought Pocho home and nursed him back to health. They had an unusual friendship, mostly because Pocho was a 5-meter-long crocodile.
For more than 20 years, Chito and Pocho swam together in a lake near Chito’s house. Chito would ride through the water on Pocho’s back, and he frequently bestowed the massive reptilian with hugs and kisses. Eventually the 450-kilo beast even permitted his mammalian friend to stick his head into his mouth.
News of Chito and Pocho’s bizarre relationship soon got out, drawing onlookers from across the country. Chito enjoyed the attention and he turned his and Pocho’s lakeshore romps into a weekly show.
Pocho quickly became the world’s most beloved crocodile, and his death in 2011 reverberated beyond the small pueblo of Siquirres. The crocodile is now mounted in a museum near Chito’s house, and for Chito, Pocho is still very much a part of his everyday life.
“I feel the same as I did before,” Chito told The Tico Times. “Nothing has changed, people are still always asking me about Pocho, sending me photos of Pocho, telling me how much they loved the show.”
Even years after Pocho’s death, Chito is still fascinated by crocodiles and he often goes to the Parisminia River near his house to fish and watch the crocodiles bask in the sun. In fact, Chito now has a new friend, another crocodile he’s seen lounging on the river’s banks.
Stricter wildlife laws passed in recent years would make holding shows and feedings with a new crocodile illegal, but Chito says he hopes one day maybe he can have a show again.
“Everything has its time and I’m always waiting for an opportunity,” he said, “but I don’t do this for a show or for the money, I do it because to me these animals are so special. I do it because they are my friends and I want to share that.”