Crocodiles are formidable enemies of man and most of the stories about them arise from tragic real experiences. At least 6 of the 23 species in the crocodile family will attack and eat human beings if they can, and many of the others are large enough to cause serious injury.
The well-known Nile crocodile, found from Egypt to the Cape of Good Hope, has a length of 5 metres. It is reported that crocodiles kill up to 1,000 people every year along the banks of the River Nile. Equally large and dangerous is the man-eating salt water crocodile, whose habitat ranges from India and China to northern Australia.
The largest of all is the Madagascar crocodile, which may grow to 9 metres or longer, and the most dangerous is the Estuarine crocodile, which probably kills over 2,000 people each year. Crocodiles have narrow, pointed snouts and rows of teeth in the lower jaw. The teeth can be seen even when the mouth is closed. The body is protected by thick leathery plates and the animal has webbed feet as well as a powerful, flattened tail.
Baby crocodiles are greenish grey with black crossbands whereas most adults are olive coloured. Sewage and garbage attract crocodiles by providing a rich diet which unfortunately inflames their aggression. That’s probably why there are constant horror stories about the danger of crocodiles growing in sewage systems and waste dumps of big cities in Africa. However, this is 4 certainly true for the city of Manzini in Swaziland, where the health officials captured man-eating crocodiles and put them to work in the city sewers and dumps to gobble up garbage.
Now, the job is done cheaply and effectively! Among the many legends about crocodiles, there are those of living to be a hundred years old. However, most crocodiles live for about fifty years. The oldest official age recorded is that of a crocodile which was born in Dresden Zoo in Germany in 1880 and which was recorded as being still alive in 1937. In fact, it might have lived on much longer if the zoo had not been completely destroyed in the Second World War. Hatred has made the hunting of crocodiles so popular that the world population of them has been drastically reduced.
Some 16 species are now almost extinct – among them the rare Cuban crocodile, which has been reduced to a mere 300 individuals living in a protected sanctuary in Cuba.