Fact Check: Did Crocodiles 'Invade' Brazilian Beach in Viral Video?

Footage of several hundred large reptiles gathered on sandy beach has gone viral on Twitter. But the alleged reptile "invasion" is not quite what is appears.

The Claim

A video has been circulating round Twitter that shows what appears to be hundreds of large reptiles gathered on a beach.

On September 13 Twitter user @RAF_Valerie posted the clip along with the caption: "In Brazil, an invasion of crocodiles that have flooded one of the beaches with several hundred, even thousands, and the local population is panicking."

The clip had gained over 1.2 million views as of September 16 and was propelled to even greater attention when it was apparently reposted by California radio host Ken Rutkowski, after which it gained around 6 million views, over 100,000 likes and several thousand retweets.

The large crocodilian animals appear to be largely stationary in the video, though some of them can be seen slowly making their way towards the water.

Caiman
A stock photo shows a caiman with its mouth open in the Pantanal region of Brazil. A viral video posted to social media recently shows what appears to be hundreds of the animals basking on sandy river bank. JMrocek/Getty

The Facts

Several Twitter users have said there is nothing to suggest the gathering of the animals constitutes an "invasion" or that locals are panicked by the situation. The animals may also be caimans, which are more closely related to alligators than crocodiles.

"This is not an invasion, locals are not panicking," zoology enthusiast @DrWildlife tweeted in response to the footage. The Twitter user said the region seen in the footage is part of the Pantanal, the largest tropical wetland in the world.

The footage had been posted on Instagram back on August 25 by Pantanal fishing company Pantanal Pesca, which wrote, translated from Portuguese: "'I think there's a little water in this alligator.' Lol. I've never seen so many together…"

The Pantanal region, which is located across Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay, has "the largest concentration of crocodiles in the world, with approximately 10 million caimans," according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

With that many large reptiles located in one region, it is unsurprising that there are sometimes large concentrations in one area—even if this gathering is particularly large.

A spokesperson for the Crocodile Research Coalition, a Belize-based non-profit organization committed to preserving crocodiles, told Newsweek via Facebook: "Speaking with colleagues that conduct research in that area, yes that is an area of the Pantanal in which caiman naturally live."

The Instagram footage also shows that the animals are not basking on a coastal beach but on the bank of a large river, as the camera pans around to show a bank on the other side as well.

"Nothing out of the ordinary," tweeted one Twitter user. "Once they've reached a sufficient temperature, they'll either find shade, take to the water, or gape their mouths to avoid getting too hot, and go about their daily business."

It's unclear what the basis is for the allegation of panic amongst locals. According to excerpts from the book 'The Pantanal of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay' published by the Waterland Research Institute in 2000, the human population of the Pantanal was around 206,000 at that time with a density of about 1.8 people per square kilometer.

The Ruling

Needs Context

Needs Context.

While the footage of what appears to be a large gathering of reptiles on a beach is genuine, the details and claims around it are misleading.

Firstly, the creatures featured in the video are most likely a type of alligator, not crocodile. The "beach" is in fact a river bank.

The grouping does not constitute an "invasion," considering the region is the reptiles' own habitat in an area known for its crocodile/caiman abundance, and there is no evidence to suggest it is somehow related to, or indicative of, an imminent volcano eruption or earthquake.

It is also unclear where the claim about panic among locals originated from, but, given that the region is not heavily populated and these kinds of caiman groupings are a regular occurrence, there's little evidence to support it.

FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK

Update, 09/26/22, 11:25 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include a comment from a Crocodile Research Coalition spokesperson.