Water Hazard

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Only the eyes and nostrils break the waterline. The crocodile moves barely disturbing the water.

As a youngster I remember seeing old black and white movies on Saturday afternoon television.  Aside from all the World War II dramas, Johnny Weissmuller playing Tarzan were the movies I most remember.  A required scene in all those Africa adventure movies were the crocodiles splashing into the water.  What better way to show the dangers of the bush.  While Hollywood usually stretches artistic license to the limit, the Nile Crocodile is indeed one of the most dangerous animals on the continent.


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Basking, dozing, watching…

The Nile Crocodile is an aggressive apex predator with few natural enemies outside of man.  Their diet is related more to their size than anything else with the smaller, younger crocodiles feeding primarily on fish and small animals in and near the water.  As they get larger they’re not as nimble and tend to go for larger animals.  Full grown crocodiles have been observed taking male Cape Buffalo making them the only animal that will attack a healthy buffalo alone.  (Lions will attack them as a group.)

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Nile Crocodile in the afternoon sun looking incredibly pleased with life. I’m not sure I want to know what makes a crocodile smile like that.

The crocodile hunts by ambush, and will wait for days for the opportunity.  Known for a very powerful jaw and conical teeth once they get hold of their prey they can hold on to it long enough to drown them.  The Nile Crocodile averages eleven to sixteen feet in length for an adult male and will weigh in between 500 and 1600 pounds, though some have been captured longer than 20 feet and weighing 2400 pounds.  It is largely a fresh water creature and is smaller than the Saltwater Crocodile of Southeast Asia and Australia.

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Hippos in the water.

The hippopotamus is misleading at first glance, so I suppose Disney can be forgiven it’s portrayal in “Fantasia.”  After all, it is a large, rotund animal with short legs, cute ears and a tail that spins like a propeller.  Really, to see a group nearly submerged in a pond keeping cool, or grazing on the shore it would be easy to think they must be slow, harmless beasts.

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Male hippopotamus warns us away from his territory.  Note the tusk shaped scar from a previous fight with another hippo.

The fact is the hippos are responsible for more fatal attacks on humans in Africa than any other large animals.  Only mosquito borne diseases kill more people.  As it turns out the hippopotamus is territorial, aggressive and unpredictable.  Able to move at nearly 20mph on land, they are surprisingly quick.  While they seem to be able to coexist with the Nile Crocodile, largely by the “you stay on your side and I’ll stay on mine method,” most other animals give them a clear berth.

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Hippo mother with siblings come ashore to graze.

A herbivore, it lives mostly on grasses and the occasional fruit.  They have been known to eat meat or insects if grasses are sparse due to drought.  The tusks, which can grow to be a foot and a half in length are self sharpening by the way the upper and lower tusk come together, and are used only for fighting.

An interesting foot-note:  Both the Nile Crocodile and the Hippopotamus may be invasive species in the Americas.  Pablo Escobar apparently imported four to his home in Columbia. After his death in 1993 they were allowed to roam wild and now number forty.  The Nile Crocodile has been found in the Everglades.

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