The Real Jaws!
Here be dragons!!! Is a good warning to be aware of when in crocodilian territory
If you think sharks are the most scary predator then guess again! There really is no other predator like Crocodilians who put us humans on the menu as often as crocs do. They are the real last man-eaters left in this world. On more than a few occasions we had close call with this primitive but surprisingly intelligent predator.
No large animals in the world affects are daily way of life more then Crocodiles, Alligators or Caiman (Crocodilians). They change they way we fish, the way we leisure and the way we move around their waterways. When fishing in the Amazon we are always constantly under pressure of the local caiman populations. It always becomes a race of who can get to the fish faster which creates often hilarious but also nerve-wracking situations
It is the general opinion that Crocodilians are opportunistic and will just attack a person by chance by basically being at the wrong place at the wrong time. What many do not seem to realize is that species like the Nile Crocodile will actively hunt humans studying and stalking them for days. They will watch people and make note of where they come to the shoreline to fish, collect water or wash clothes. Then the next time their victim comes they will already be lying in ambush waiting at the exact spot where they enter the water the previous days.
While we should be careful around all 24 species of Crocodilians there are only 10 that are truly dangerous and consider us humans as prey. In our opinion these are the 10 most dangerous species of crocs:
10 MOST DANGEROUS SPECIES OF CROCODILIANS
Species Yearly Fatalities
Nile Crocodile 1000 - 3000
Saltwater Crocodile 300 - 1000
Mugger Crocodile 50 - 100
American Crocodile 40 - 80
Black Caiman 30 - 70
Tomistoma 5 - 10
Morelet's Crocodile 5 - 10
American Alligator 1 - 3
Cuban Crocodile 1
Orinoco Crocodile 1
While these numbers are estimations what is important to remember is that most these attacks are in remote areas and go underreported. Some might say that our estimate for Nile Crocodiles is on the high end but this is what we believe are still conservative. There are so many counties/regions in sub Saharan Africa where at least one person a week gets taken by crocodiles that when you start tallying these you get some very scary numbers.
What makes certain species kill so many humans while other species do not? This really depends on a few factors like average size, diet and temperament. However besides size the most important factor is really us humans. Attacks are much more common in countries where people have to enter the water regularly because of their own way of life being dependent on it. if you for example would replace the Nile Crocodile in Africa with with American Alligators there would be many more attacks by alligators each year. Yes the American alligator is a much more docile species but it also has much less run ins with humans in the water.
Another good example is for example the Saltwater Crocodile in Australia., while only about 1 attack occurs in Australia each year, there are hundreds of attacks in for example Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. This again has to do with how the local people live their lives. Australians do not have to enter the water to upkeep their way of life and have alternative places to swim in like swimming pools.
HOW TO PREVENT AN ATTACK?
While we personally break many of the rules to that could prevent a possible attack we would recommend the following if you want to be safe:
Research and check if there are any crocodilians species living in the area you visit.
Ask locals if it is safe to swim in a certain place.
Do not swim at or nearby croc territories. even though a place is deemed safe by others does not mean a new croc just made it its new home during the night
Never swim at night
Keep away from the shoreline and keep your hands inside the boat.
Stay out of small boats and kayaks in areas with large Croc species
Lastly never ever think a watering hole is too small to house a dangerous crocodile. A few years back in Kenya we walked up to this small ditch of water which was probably less then 3 meter across in the middle of the savannah and far away from the nearest river. We wanted to take a water sample for a research project.
There was a bit of a slope to get to water and as we were climbing down I noticed something was off. At first we thought it was a very large Nile monitor lizard but then we realized it was a 10 Foot Nile crocodile. We got the scare of a life time and got out of there fast.
HOW TO SURVIVE A CROCODILE ATTACK?
This is easier said then done as we all react different under extreme stress. The smallest person can put up a heck of a fight at times while some of the toughest persons you have ever met can be frozen in fear.. Anyway hoping that you are the fighting kind here is what we recommend:
Fight back in anyway you can, playing dead is not an option witch crocs.
If the Croc has grabbed you and is underwater and trying to drown you. push your free hand inside its mouth as far back as possible until you reach a fleshy valve that you need to push all the way back so water runs in its body and lungs. The croc will release its grip and you should have time to escape.
Can't get your hands inside its mouth? Try to find the crocs eye and push thumb inside of there as far you can.. This can also result in the Crocodile getting more aggressive initially, just don't give up and keep at it. if you have any sharp object in your hand use this instead.
When the Croc does its deadroll try to hang to the croc or roll with him if possible.
In the worst case, cut your losses. If you think you can get away and out of the water quickly it could be worth it to sacrifice one of your limbs.
After you get the croc to release you try to get as far away from the shoreline as possible. Just a few meters from the water edge will not do.
In closing we really love Crocodiles and they are some of our favorite animals. They really change our trips and itinerary when present in the areas we venture trough. They really take the adventure to whole other level and are exciting to be near.
With a healthy dose of respect, some knowledge and common sense we can definitely coexist.