Sunday, 8 September 2013

The gratitude of crocodiles

In the late eighties I relocated crocodiles from the Maputo zoo in Mozambique to a game farm in South Africa, and gave them a new lease on life in the wild (see earlier blog).

A year later one of the rangers reported that he had seen the crocs  mating.  This particular dam had no handy sand banks for ideal nesting, so I spent weekend after weekend trying to find the nest in the surrounding bush, to no avail.  My efforts were futile – Mamacroc had done an excellent camouflage job, and I couldn’t entice her to share her secret.

The mortality rate of baby crocodiles in the wild is in excess of 95% due to predation.  I simply had to find the nest before they hatched. 
They were going to be my first grandchildren, after all.
When I estimated the hatching date to be near, I would drive the eighty Km to the farm after surgery hours, and search and listen to for hatching calls armed with a torch and a .357 Magnum.  And good running shoes.  No luck.

On a Sunday morning at first light, I found the nest at long last, but I was too late – the hatchlings were already in the water.  All that remained was sixteen egg shells.  Geles (see earlier blog) was faithfully  guarding his offspring in the far corner of the dam, under the watchful eyes of two patrolling Maribou storks and a fish eagle from a high perch.   And I knew there were big, hungry barbel in that dam.  I had to do something.

The main camp had a swimming pool, so I fetched a cardboard box and the net used for skimming leaves from the pool. At least I would have a ten foot aluminium pole between myself and Geles and his wife.

By the time I got back there were two fish eagles.  The bank was fairly steep and the water deep at this spot. I would have preferred to have a twenty foot pole.  The dispassionate look in Geles’ eye made me wish for a thirty foot pole.

Trying to get the job done was the stuff real nightmares are made of.

By the time I had three babies in the box I was sweating profusely and I had the jitters.  By this time Geles  also decided that enough was enough. I was expecting it to happen at some stage, but when it did, it happened with the speed of a greased lightning strike.  He shot out of the water like a Polaris missile.

Geles got the pole and I got the box and one of the biggest frights of my life.  As I was accelerating around the dam to get to my truck, the hatchlings in the box were chirping incessantly and loudly. Daddy paid heed. Geles splashed back into the water, and gave chase.  Half swimming and half running he was a fearsome sight, churning up sprays of mud and cleaving through the water at frightening speed.

On reaching the safety of my vehicle with my three babies, my mind was made up – the other thirteen would have to take their own chances on survival.

Raising my brood is another story for another time.  Watch this space for “The poodle, the birds and the baby crocs”.  And the Department of Nature Conservation.

Books by the same author:
Cheetah in the Rain
Fighting AIDS
Show me a Reason
Available on Amazon, Apple, Sony, Kobo etc. etc.

No comments:

Post a Comment