|Shingwedzi Camp, Kruger National Park|
I stayed in one of those bungalows with friends last year.
Last week saw a mass break-out of around fifteen thousand highly dangerous inmates on death row. They were held at Rakwena in north-west South Africa, near the Botswana border and also near the Limpopo River. Although some of the escapees have been recaptured, nearly ten thousand are still at large. They were the beneficiaries – perhaps the only beneficiaries – of a major cyclone over Mozambique which caused the Limpopo River and much of the Limpopo province of South Africa to experience another massive flood event. Kipling’s “great grey-green greasy Limpopo” showed what sort of stuff it’s really made of.
So back to the great escape. Actually, it wasn’t an escape but an evacuation. As the flood waters rose at the Rakwena Crocodile Farm (Kwena means crocodile), the external pressure of the water on their holding areas became intolerable. So the staff opened the gates, and shortly afterwards 15,000 crocs of various ages – destined to become handbags and the like – took off into the great outdoors. In fact, the river eventually flooded the farm completely, so the crocs were heading for the exit in any case.
The escapees made it their business to put as much distance between themselves and the crocodile farm as quickly as they could. Well, so would you if you were going to be turned into fashion boots. One was found a few days later nearly eighty miles away on a rugby field at Muskina. Others were spotted at parks, rivers, golf courses…
The crocs were described as “not large,” which seemed to mean under eight foot. I would hate to meet any of these “not large” crocs on a dark night! The Rakwena folks also said they were “domestic” animals and used humans to supply food rather than as food. Hmmm. I’m not too sure how crocodiles think about us humans; the Nile Crocodile is the animal responsible for the largest number of human deaths in Africa. Wildlife authorities advised people to "stay indoors and keep away from the crocodiles". Not easy to do when your house is being flooded!
Catching the crocs is mainly attempted at night, when their eyes reflect bright red in the beam of a spotlight. It’s still a messy business, involving jumping on the creature, taping its jaws and avoiding its tale. I won’t be applying for that job, thanks. If you want some tips as to how it's done, take a look at this video Capture
A less humorous aspect of the story is that the floods forced people to wade through these swollen waters. They probably found the thought of sharing it with fifteen thousand crocs less than hilarious. Still, in fact there have been no reports of attacks. It was the floods themselves that killed more than twenty people…
Michael – Thursday.