Sunday, 29 December 2013

Children swimming with Crocodiles

'Trust only tap water - any other water in the Lowveld should be treated as if there's crocodiles in it'.
My grandpa used to hammer this into our heads as children.

Good thing he did.

Just outside the town of White River lies the most spectacular farm with a couple of beautiful dams.
We used to fish and have picnics under the huge Camel Thorn trees at the Fish Eagle dam.
The dam was fed by springs and the run-off of summer storms, and the closest river was the Crocodile River, some fifteen miles down the valley.

My kids were forbidden to play in the water, and my incessant concerns fell on deaf ears as far as the other parents were concerned.  Old wives' tales etc.

I borrowed a croc capture cage from my friend Cobus Raath in the Kruger Park, and set the trap.  I drove out to check on it every morning and every evening for weeks on end. Nothing.

I'm sure the friends were sniggering behind my back.

The water level receded as winter progressed, and I had to keep moving the cage in order to keep it half submerged.

Then, one morning I noticed from a distance that the drop-gate on the cage had been triggered.  To my utter disappointment there was not a ripple on the water in the cage. 
However, the moment I touched the cage all hell broke loose - the croc exploded from the water, jaws snapping wildly.
This was one mean mother.

I notified Nature Conservation as well as my friend Elise Visagie, one of the co-owners.  I asked her to go get her son Erwin out of school.  Erwin was about ten years old at the time, and one of the more enthusiastic swimmers in the dam.

Erwin didn't like what he saw close-up.

With the help of the officials we got the cage on the back of my truck, and we released the croc on the banks of the Crocodile River.

In this picture Elise is standing next to the cage with folded arms, contemplating her son's swimming mate.

Needless to say, this unusual sight on the road during morning rush hour created some chaos.

Heading for its new home

Needless to say Erwin preferred swimming pools with crystal clear water from that day.  But tough young Lowveld kids being what they are, it only lasted for a couple of months....

Remarkable how memories can fade, eh Erwin?

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