There is no doubt the Nile crocodile is a ferocious killing machine. Regarded as the largest crocodilian in Africa and only the second largest crocodilian after the saltwater crocodile, the male crocodile can measure up to 11.5, sometimes 16 feet long (3.5 to 5 M).
Very old, mature crocodiles can grow to 18 FT (5.5 M) and weigh up to 225 KG. There are reported cases of this species reaching weights of up to 730 KG.
Nile crocodiles have voracious appetites. They feed on animals that come to the water to drink. These include zebras, hippos, wildebeest, porcupines, pangolins, and birds – anything that breaths and has some meat basically.
They will also eat other crocodiles and carrion. When an animal comes to the riverbank, the Nile crocodile attacks and seizes the animal, dragging it underwater until it drowns. It cannot chew, so the prey is stuck underneath a log to rot.
Nile crocodiles eat the entire animal, including bones. Pebbles are sometimes swallowed to aid in digestion. These prehistoric creatures that have changed very little in the last 65 million years are now known to attack man.
It is believed several fatalities, probably in their hundreds, occur every year courtesy of the Nile crocodile – which is more than from all the other subspecies of crocodiles combined. Although being smaller than the infamous saltwater crocodile, the Nile crocodile lives closer to human settlements and this increases the risk of fatal encounters.
They always say prevention is better than cure and indeed for the Nile crocodile, this is a fact of life many have learned the hard way – even on pain of death. But some have managed to escape and their near-death experience has helped to create a wealth of knowledge that, over time, has been used to increase the chances of survival after an encounter with this formidable foe. We will share 7 of them.
1. Stay Away from Infested Waters
Ask local residents and authorities about the presence of crocodiles in lakes and rivers and do not go swimming outside of designated areas or in water where these animals are present. Obvious places in Kenya to be very careful about are rivers such as the Tana and the Mara. It is especially important that you avoid entering the water at dusk or at night, when the animals are harder to see and when they most actively hunt.
2. Be Aware of your Surroundings
Always be vigilant in an area known to have crocodiles. Crocodiles can hide very well in water, often keeping only their eyes and nostrils above water or submerging entirely. Do not dangle arms or legs off a boat into the water. Keep your distance from the water when walking onshore – the Nile crocodile is known to attack fishermen and people gathering water on the shore – and avoid thick vegetation that provides these animals with good cover.
3. Stay at least 5 Metres away from Crocodiles
Once you’ve spotted them, keep your distance. Five metres is usually more than enough on land, but during the mating season, it is a good idea to stay even farther away. Always stay far away from nests or baby crocodiles, as mothers are fiercely defensive. Crocodiles can produce short bursts of speed on land that can take you by surprise if you are too close. In the water, these animals are much faster than humans and feel more at home, so it is best to give them as much space as possible.
4. Avoid Startling the Animals
If you see you are going to come anywhere close to a crocodilian, make noise by slapping the water with your oars when boating or blow a whistle. Stay away from riverbanks when coming around bends in a river. Crocodiles basking on the shore may attack in self-defence if you surprise them.
5. Run as far as Possible
Despite your precautions, you might accidentally come dangerously close to a crocodile. Fortunately, crocodiles rely on the element of surprise to capture prey, so it’s extremely unusual for one of these animals to pursue a person on land. Take caution though, crocodiles are not as sluggish on land as some people believe, though they’re not as fast as many other people think, either.
The land speed record for a crocodile is about 17 KM per hour (about 10 MI per hour) and these animals quickly grow tired when running on land, which means that as long as you can see it coming, any teen or adult in decent shape can easily outrun one of these animals.
The commonly-repeated instruction to run in zigzags is useless: the quickest way to put distance between a Nile crocodile and you is to run away in a straight line.
6. Fight back with every single breath you have
While the normal behaviour of crocodiles is to bite and hold on until forcibly removed, they will sometimes deliver a single, quick defensive bite and then immediately let go. If this occurs, just try to get away from the animal as quickly as possible. In predatory attacks, however, as well as in some defensive attacks, the animal does not let go and will often try to drag a person into the water or underwater.
Crocodiles can stay underwater for much longer than humans can, so the only hope of survival, if you’re attacked in this manner, is to fight back and get away. Simply struggling and trying to pull free is usually futile and may induce the animal to go into an underwater death roll, during which an arm or leg stuck in the crocodile’s mouth will likely be ripped off. A purposeful, deliberate attack on the animal is, therefore, a better option.
- Go for the eyes. The most vulnerable part of a crocodile’s body is its eyes. Try to hit or poke the eyes with whatever you have around you – like a knife for instance. Even your hands can be effective weapons if you can hit the animal’s eyes.
- Go for the nostrils or ears. While not as sensitive as the eyes, the nostrils and ears can be effectively attacked. A hard blow or a cut to either of these areas may cause the animal to release you. Many people have been saved from a crocodile’s jaws when other people have hit the animal’s snout with a pole or club.
- Go for the palatal valve. Crocodilians have a flap of tissue behind the tongue that covers their throats when they submerge in water. This flap prevents water from flowing into their throats and hence prevents the crocodile from drowning when its mouth is open. If your arm or leg is stuck in a crocodile’s mouth, you may be able to pry this valve down. Water will then flow into the crocodile’s throat, and the animal will most likely let you go.
- Although the bite force exerted by an adult Nile crocodile is a mind-blowing 5,000 lbf (22 KN), the muscles responsible for opening the mouth are exceptionally weak, allowing a man to easily hold them shut with a small amount of force. Try to do this at the earliest opportunity you get. It may make the difference between life and death.
7. Get Medical Attention Promptly
A crocodile’s mouth harbours a tremendous amount of bacteria and infection is almost guaranteed if a bite is not treated promptly. Seek medical help immediately after a crocodile attack.
Have you ever been attacked by a crocodile? What was your experience? Share by commenting below.