Croc Shock!!! – Article by Gareth Jones
NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK – CROC SHOCK!!! – By GARETH JONES
It was a cold cloudy morning as I sat quietly at the Hyena dam, waiting and watching to see what bird action there was. Suddenly a movement caught my attention, the profile of a large crocodile was cruising across the water and was swimming towards me. Being a master of stealth the reptile reached the bank without being noticed, and then when the birds became aware, the peaceful scene erupted into an orchestra of panic sounds, and many of them were in a major flap, due to this “croc shock”. However, the croc seemed to have a different motive, as it moved out of the water and onto the bank, in the hope of getting some daylight warmth for its cold reptilian body.
I have seen this large crocodile at the Hyena dam on a number of occasions, what impressed me was the fact that Hyena dam is quite a few kilometres from the Athi River where most crocodiles can be found. I ask myself questions, like … Why go so far inland? How did this crocodile sense there was a dam here? However, irrespective of how and why? It seems to be thriving even with a few hippos as well.
On another occasion I was sitting quietly watching a fish eagle perched on the edge of the Hyena dam, suddenly the fish eagle took off over the water. The eagle then turned sharply and dived down into the water with talons extended as if catching a large fish. There was a very large reactive splash as the “fish” tried to grab the eagle. It all happened very rapidly, as I realized that the “fish” was actually a crocodile. This fish eagle had seriously misjudged the movement in the water and nearly ended up being dinner for this crocodile. However, the eagle escaped without any injury and lived to fight another day.
Crocodiles are found in many places in Africa, there are three species of which the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) is the largest, they can live for about 80 years, and grow up to about 5metres, (with a record 6.5 metres specimen weighing 1090kg). 99% of the crocodile offsprings are eaten in the first year of life by large fish, monitor lizards, herons and … adult crocodiles. A female crocodile lays 20-80 eggs. Crocodiles carry their babies to the water in their mouth. Baby crocodiles can make noises from inside their eggs before they hatch. The mother can hear their voices, then digs up the eggs from the sand, and takes the hatchlings to the water. So it is interesting to note that only about 1% of crocodiles actually reach adult maturity.
Another interesting fact is that Crocodiles really do produce tears. Because, while eating, they swallow too much air, which pressures the lachrymal glands (glands that produce tears) and forces tears to flow. But it’s not actually crying. The term “Crocodile tears” (and equivalents in many other languages) refers to a false, insincere display of emotion, such as a hypocrite crying fake tears of grief. It is derived from an ancient anecdote that crocodiles weep in order to lure their prey, or that they cry for the victims they are eating. Crocodiles do not have sweat glands, so they release heat through their mouths, and often sleep with their mouths open.
Crocodiles have a reputation of being very stealthy hunters, waiting patiently beneath the water for their unsuspecting prey, then striking at a lightning speed to kill. They do not have the ability to chew meat, and therefore resort to methods of tearing off chunks of meat. These methods include shaking the prey and barrel rolling in the water. They are also known to relocate their prey in hollowed out river banks, this allows the flesh to start rotting and therefore become softer and easier to tear off.
Apart from the threat when they are young, crocodiles are also natural enemies with the hippopotamus. In the Nairobi National Park, there are a number of locations to try and see crocodiles, that includes the Athi dam, Hippo pools, Hyena dam and Nagolomon dam.
Watch out for these large reptiles next time you visit the Nairobi National Park!
The park is open daily from 06h00 to 19h00.