Costa Rica mourns death of famous crocodile Poncho
Tuesday 18 Oct 2011 11:41 a.m.
The Costa Rican town of Siquirres turned out to bid farewell to one of its most famous sons - a 4 1/2 metre (15 feet) long crocodile and internet celebrity called "Pocho".
People lined the streets of the small pineapple and banana farming town to pay their respects to the funeral cortege of the 450kg reptile. He is thought to be the first crocodile ever to be accorded the honour in Costa Rica.
Pocho was the larger half of a double act that helped put the Carribean town on the map; he dazzled tourists and locals alike with an array of hair-raising tricks.
The crocodile was laid out on a trailer that a truck pulled around the town. Pocho's partner and owner, Gilberto Shedden, sat next to the body in nothing but a loin cloth. Cars and pedestrians moved slowly along the streets in homage to the departed celebrity.
As Pocho lay in state, recordings of Caribbean carnival music and intermittent Tarzan yelps blasted out on speakers.
A solemn Reverend Sonia Richards Campbell presided over the funeral. She stood over Pocho's corpse, which was garlanded with tropical flowers and burning incense.
During shows, Mr Shedden – nicknamed 'Chito' - would dive into a lake, splash around and pretend to wrestle with the crocodile. Sporting leopard-print shorts, he would even put his face right up to Pocho and kiss him on the snout.
Tearfully, Mr Shedden said he would miss Pocho terribly. "It was a relationship that only we could feel," he told Reuters.
Mr Shedden's daring stunts during 1,000 odd shows earned him the nickname of "Tarzan Tico" - Tico is a local name for Costa Ricans - and online videos of the pair went viral.
The origins of the act went back some 20 years, when Mr Shedden found the American crocodile in a river suffering from a gun shot wound to the head. Their friendship blossomed after he took the croc home and nursed it back to health.
Pocho, who was believed to be about 60-years-old, will still be drawing visitors after his death - his cadaver is to be embalmed and put on display in a museum.
3 News / Reuters