As the person who headed the recent recover of the much loved Mac Bailey and a guide who has shot a few problem crocodiles in communal areas in past years. I have been reading all the readers comments and just wanted to put my 5 c in. There most definitely is an over population of crocs in Kariba and they do need to be culled. There are a lot of readers comments stating that the very large crocodiles should be culled. This is not entirely true, whilst yes the crocs that were involved in Mac Bailey tragic accident were indeed large, it is my experience from other attacks i have dealt with and heard of, that the problem lies with the 9 -12 foot crocs. Large crocs are generally very wary of humans, they didnt get big by being bold. It is important to note there is normally a huge difference in croc behaviour in areas where crocs are legally hunted to areas where they are not. Larger crocs are much more shy in hunting areas then in areas that are not. I have seen large crocs disappear because they saw a boat from up to 1km. Whilst Mac Bailey was taken in a hunting area, it is my opinion that this attack and the three or four other recent attacks can be blamed on the up coming breeding season. During the breeding season large males guard their females closely and wont tolerate other males moving in. This means they don't have time for feeding. The larger males hunt now to carry them through the breeding season when they cannot afford to leave their territory.
Unfortunately it also means once breeding is over they are hungry…..
As was mentioned by a few readers crocs are controlled by Cities, so controlling them will be difficult. Cites look at the population of Africa or Zimbabwe as a whole. And as a whole the croc populations are down. They do not look at the massive population of Kariba alone. Maybe they should be made to ? they could increase quotas drastically in many hunting areas. I know for a fact that the 50 odd km of shore line that Mac was taken in only has 2 crocs on quota. YES 2 ! There are other concessions that have a more but the fact is all of these concessions could have their quotas greatly increased. I agree completely with one readers comment that Parks should introduce a system like in Florida. So many tags based on an accurate count. It would create a whole new job line and income for Parks as well. Regards Warren Thorne
In 1990 I was fortunate to be involved in croc capture on Lake Kariba. We were tasked with the capture of males over 3m from nose to tail tip, we captured 48 males over 3m in length with the largest being 4.65m, and this not counting the end of his tail which was missing. Several very interesting points became evident during the operation. There were many males well under 3m, this was the greatest number captured, only to be released as they did not fit the bill, crocs over 3m were not nearly as numerous but of interest there seemed to be a size gap around the 3m mark, well under or well over. At the time there were some Varsity students conducting croc studies on the lake so we took our findings to them. They too had discovered the same phenomena and had come to the conclusion that the big boys were river crocs born before the advent of the dam, with the rising water the crocs lost their traditional nesting grounds and the population was now spread from river to dam resulting in a gap before breeding got back to normal. The captured crocs were sent to croc farms for breeding purposes. Some crocs, not necessarily the largest, were absolute killers, destroying all other crocs they were placed with, pity we couldn’t breed those, but apart from Artificial Insemination it would not be possible as they killed the lovely ladies they were placed with. Also, at the time I think breeders were required to return 5% of hatchlings back to the wild, I did not know any breeder who complied with this and it has never to my knowledge been policed, thank goodness or the problem would be that much greater. The operation was carried out 24 years ago, that vast number under 3m then are now well over. The solution? Well since the day of Uncle Adam man has basically stuffed up nature and will have to get involved and to try and rectify the problem. Then the brave souls who go out at night to do the dastardly deed will have the greenies crying foul. Bring croc shoes back into fashion and that may do the trick, but croc shoes are plastic now so we’ll never win. Regards Bob Haywood
Hi Mike, thank you for this info. Yes even a long time backs when canoeing on the river, I thought that there appeared to be a lot more crocs in the river than there were. It seems the programme of returning so many hatchlings back needs revision. When in the Northern Territory here (Australia) a few years ago, I saw them enticing crocs to jump way out of the water (hind feet vertically clear of the water) to take bait from a pole held out to encourage this. Crazy idea in my opinion. Think how near the water line one is aboard a canoe? Thanks. Marshall
When speaking to croc fundis, it would seem that crocs are creatures of habit and they haven’t survived as long as they have by being impulsive or careless. Logic then says that crocs have been watching boats and humans on the lake for years and have come to realise that boats and man don’t pose too much of a threat and hence the increased incidence of what one could call brazen attacks. Thus it probably is high time that those large and bold crocs, that cruise in close proximity of boats, settlements, etc are somehow taken care of so that they become sensitised to the dangers of being in the vicinity of boats/humans. Although shooting them wouldn’t be ideal either, because this would affect land based game like elephants, who very are sensitive to gunshots…. I had heard recently from folks on the northern side of the lake who reckon that they don’t have anywhere near the number of croc attacks and close shaves with these worrying creatures that we do in Zim and they feel that this is because crocs are regularly shot or taken out on that side and so they are scared of humans. Although the lack of sightings might also be because they don’t have as much wildlife on the Zambian shores as we do in Zim??? Either way, it would be awesome to be able to get back to the old days of parasailing and skiing and swimming in the lake as we used to do, or at least be able to sit in the safety of one’s boat and not have to worry about a large beast lurking under the boat waiting to strike the minute a hand is dipped in or a leg dangled over the side. Croc-Control
I totally agree with the posting saying that a number of people are now thinking twice about going to Kariba. It is insane how many crocs are in the lake. Some years ago I used to fly with my husband in a helicopter over the entire lake and down the lower zambezi. One day flying over the Ume River mouth they were literally piled up on top of one another, there were so many. As far down as Kanyemba the size of the crocs, and the quantity of them, were mind blowing. There is no way nature is going to bring this under control but I don't really see how hunting them will either. They would have to shoot thousands before any impact was made whatsoever and that would turn the lake into a kind of 'war zone' !
After having lived in Kariba since 2005 I cannot comment on whether the actual number of crocodiles has increased, but certainly the concentration of them in the Eastern basin seems to have. I am unaware of any annual report from anywhere that monitors the crocodile population. Given that we have all been simply trying to survive on a day to day basis in Zimbabwe, I would say that surveys like this have all but fallen away? I know only of the annual Mana Game count but have never heard of a “crocodile count” or survey. It would be interesting to approach National Parks and ask for their latest statistics on the crocodile population in Kariba. Numbers aside, I have a house at Lomagundi Lakeside and have never permitted my children to even be in the vicinity of the harbour on their own, never mind fish off the bank. I do not know the “normal” behaviour of crocodiles but I do know that recently they seem to have evolved from predatory opportunists to hunters. At this present time I do not believe it is a ridiculous notion for a crocodile to knock someone off a low jetty, or launch themselves out of the water to pull you off the bank, out of your boat, off the duck board of a houseboat. Yes it is bad news for Kariba as a tourist destination, which is already struggling. But we cannot ignore the problem to try in order to try protect our business interests in Kariba. The threat of crocodiles is very apparent, and I do believe it is getting worse. With the Kariba Half Marathon coming up on the 10th of August I urge all participants to stay clear of the water at Lomagundi Lakeside. There are resident crocodiles in that harbour so keep your distance! I would not recommend letting your children fish off the bank regardless of whether they are standing 3 metres up the bank. Because they will get tangled in the weed and will walk towards the water to try and un-snag themselves. A survey needs to be done in order to establish the population, and if the balance is correct then look at whether the behaviour of the crocodiles in changing? Or the behaviour of lake-goers? On the flip side have we become too complacent? There is no question about whether there is a problem. The problem is that it has taken too long for it to be addressed.
Vikki, you have partially got it right about people being careless the way people throw food over houseboats and perhaps fish too close to the water’s edge BUT to be honest, the only good Croc is a dead one!! I want to be able to have my young Grandchildren experiencing the same freedom on the lake as I have in the years past and not feel they cannot go on a boat cause they are suitable size for Croc bait, neither do I want to go out for my sundowners and last catch of the day and feel I am looking over my shoulder all the time wondering how many Crocs are lurking underneath my boat cause that's the feeling one gets, these days especially in certain parts of the lake! I am not keen on hunting in particular but in the case of the Croc, I really feel as many licences as possible should be given to shoot Crocs, as the situation has got out of hand - nature can no longer take its course with the situation as it is now! My humble opinion! Louise.
This reply is in response to the comment by vikki: as zimbabweans, one of our fondest and most cherished memories of an African childhood are of being sun - kissed while frolicking in the shallows of a river or dam which you knew 'had no crocs'. There is no way that I would risk a dip in any body of water in zim now. Perhaps u must have had a different upbringing but I find it sad that my kids can't experience this part of growing up in Africa. ..Sirbrownsound
Crocs are a major problem in Kariba, not just recently but for some years. I have had crocs attacking fish on the end of my rod. I have had one follow my fishing boat from one little bream spot to another. He got so close I had a swipe at him with the oar. We laughed, he closed his eyes and ducked. Just to move a bit further back but still after our fish. We have had crocs bump parked house boats. Crocs have attacked floating keep nets. While fishing for mozies , many years ago a seven footer did not leave us alone. Move 50 meters he would be there quickly and very close. He had a go at one of our fish. Marshalling for a team in top 10 I told the guys a croc was getting close to their boat until he banged his body on the bottom of the boat. We moved immediately. While skippering for the SA juniors a croc tried to jump onto my boat. Fortunately my boat had high sides. His angle of attack was pointed at me. I would hate to know how many they have killed in the fishing co-op boats. YES, they are a problem and parks need to cut them back. Regards Doug
People think that because they can’t see any crocs around, there aren’t many. Once at a hunting camp on the Zambezi River, on an unseasonably warm winter day, I counted AT LEAST 70 crocs of medium and above size on a bank on the Zambian side. There were many more, but I couldn’t see them all properly as they were all lying on top of each other. We never saw them again, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there! We know personally two people who have had large crocs breach and capsize their canoes on the Zambezi – one was fishing and had a fish on at the time – and we all know the tragic story of the American teenager taken out of her canoe at Mana.
It'd really help if people would send in their experiences with crocs, as we'd be more careful. Its difficult to warn people (especially your teenagers) not to swim in the middle or wash their hands overboard etc if they haven't heard of LOTS of attacks, or near attacks.
When Dave Winhall was our Professional Guide at Tiger Bay in the early-980’s, we decided on this wording on a wooden sign, hanging by Reception, which Dave carefully sun-burnt onto the timber using a magnifying glass; Wild animals can be dangerous.
Please treat them with caution and respect.
In 1980-1981, we would water-ski out of the small bay adjacent to the Ume Bush Camp without thinking twice about it, because crocs would rapidly disappear at the sound of humans and outboard motors. Many people learnt to water-ski from Kariba Breezes and Caribea Bay harbours in the 70’s and 80’s. All that has changed, and crocs have become so familiar with humans in boats and on banks, fear of them has all but evaporated. Practically everyone knows crocs eat fish, and will grab animals and humans from a bank or shoreline if they are hungry and the opportunity presents itself. Kariba, and areas surrounding it are a National Park, where its flora and fauna are protected, mainly from human depredation. There is no doubt boaters feed crocodiles, some deliberately, others through thoughtless disposal of unwanted foodstuffs. In holiday seasons particularly, keepnets full of fish are hung over the sides of boats. Just as there will always be road accidents, so unfortunate encounters between animals and humans will lead to tragedies for both. Dave Scott.