Thursday, December 5, 2013

A discerning palette is not something for which the Nile crocodile is known. Just the opposite in fact. It doesn’t discriminate between a buck and a human on a riverbank. Exact numbers are not known but it’s estimated that 200 to 300 people die annually thanks to its ferocious jaws. Moreover, these estimated figures don’t include the non-fatal attacks that go unreported. It’s not difficult to understand why the Crocodylus Niloticus has earned the reputation of a brutal man-eater.

Strongest bite in the world

The Nile crocodile can grow to about 20 feet (6 metres) and can weigh up to 1700 pounds (770 kilograms). That’s the weight equivalent of approximately 10 human adults. In reality though, the majority of full-grown crocodiles reach an average size of about 16 feet (5 metres) and 500 pounds (225 kilograms). Lying concealed in the water, they snatch their prey with their powerful jaws and, dragging it into the water, hold it down until it drowns. A single snap of its jaws exerts a bite force of more than 10 tons. By contrast the muscles controlling the opening and closing of the Nile crocodile’s mouth are weak. This is why trained professionals are able to exert minimal force to keep the jaws shut.

Gustave: the beast from Burundi

Nile crocodiles are found in numerous parts of Africa in rivers, marshes and lakes. In the last decade, one Nile crocodile, Gustave, has reached legendary status for terrorising and killing villagers on the banks of the Ruzizi River in Burundi. He’s a colossal male estimated to be more than 20 feet (6 metres) and weighing more than a ton. So legendary in fact, that Gustave inspired the Hollywood horror movie, Primeval. Interestingly, in spite of an indiscriminate diet, the Nile crocodile’s main source of food is fish. But, owing to his gigantic size, Gustave and other larger crocodiles have little choice but to hunt easier prey coming to the waterside to drink or collect water.

Surprisingly gentle fact about the Nile crocodile

Underneath the outer tank-like casing and fearsome mouth filled with teeth, is a powerful parental urge to nurture in both males and females. Most reptiles lay eggs and leave their offspring to hatch on their own and fend for themselves. The Nile crocodile is different. Both Mom and Dad wait around protectively fending off any would be predators. They even go as far as to role ready to hatch eggs gently in their mouths to help their little ones to emerge.

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