The scorpagator is a member of the Crocodilian family. Scorpagators have a scorpion-like, curved tail with a venomous stinger on the end used to kill its prey and ward off enemies, but are otherwise undistinguishable from the American alligator. Fully developed, they can grow up to 3 meters and weigh as much as 300 kilograms. While alligators are only native to the United States and China, the scorpagator is found only in high elevations of the Andes Mountains. Their diet consists primarily of alpacas, llamas, and chinchillas, but they are also known to occasionally eat condors.

The first recordings of scorpagators were documented by the Incan Empire, but were nearly completely destroyed after Spanish conquest. According to fragmented scribes and drawings, scorpagators were considered supernatural to the Incas for their ability to live without water for several months at a time; however, by 1540, an estimated 90 percent were killed due to Spanish mass extermination. They believed the animal was demonic and unfit in the interest of catholic conversion for the indigenous people.

Studies show the blood oxygen levels of scorpagators permit them to only live in an elevation between 14,000 to 16,000 feet, where the air is much thinner. They have not been able to survive in captivity, as the increase of oxygen at lower elevations causes oxygen poisoning starting at 10,000 ft. The extreme temperatures of the Andes Mountains put the scorpagator into a state of hypothermia. With a slowed metabolism, the scorpagator is able to survive for months without food or water.

In the early 1900’s, scorpagator stingers were traded for a variety of goods in Asia at high value. In 1954, scorpagators were considered an endangered species. By August of the same year, the hunting and containment of scorpagators was made illegal by the Peruvian Wildlife Reserve. As of 2010, they are still considered endangered, but are steadily rising in population. In 2006, the Andean Preservation Organization began research on the effects of global warming and scorpagator survival. Results have not yet been released.

Valerie Valderrama