Aquatic Predators-Crocs-3

J. Moore (
Mon, 26 Jun 95 10:13:00 -0500

(Continued from last message)
[So it's good at its job, but what about defense? What about
spotting it coming and getting out of the water?]]
pg. 177:
Crocodiles, like sharks, are rarely seen prior to an attack. The
attack is swift, silent, and without warning.

pp. 175-176:
Like most crocodiles, when lying motionless in the water, the Nile
Crocodile is cryptically colored and difficult to detect. It regularly
enhances this natural concealment by lying next to a stand of reeds,
under an overhanging tree, among water lilies, or drifting alongside a
floating object.
It can breathe, smell, see, and hear while only the top of its nostrils
and the top of its head are visible above the surface. From this
sit-and-wait position it will make the final lunge at unsuspecting
humans or antelope that approach the water's edge.
Alternatively, the crocodile may detect a potential victim when it is
drifting some distance offshore. It will submerge and approach closer
and closer, swimming underwater and bringing its head to the surface
perhaps once or twice to check the location of the prey. The final
lunge may carry the attacking crocodile several times its own length up
the beach. Acceleration imparted by the powerful tail is combined with
a simultaneous forward swing of the hind legs as the crocodile beaches.
The toes and feet dig into the bank and the powerful legs lever the body
upward. If the bank is steep, the crocodile appears to vault straight
out of the water. If the prey is still out of reach, the hind-leg
stride may be repeated and the crocodile may lower its head and hook it
over the top of the bank to support its body for another stride. many
an unsuspecting antelope or relaxed fisherman has been seized in this
form of attack, even when 1.5 meters (5 feet) above the water.
[Okay, what about safety in numbers?]
pp. 176-177:
Contrary to popular belief,noise or safety in numbers does not deter a
crocodile attack. Of the attacks investigated, only five of the victims
were alone when seized. Several of the victims were snatched from
amidst groups of men, women, and children who were either fording
rivers, washing clothes or food, or bathing, and who were making a
considerable amount of noise at the time. Field studies have shown that
crocodiles are attracted from considerable distances to the sounds of a
struggling animal in shallow water or to a shoal of leaping fish and
that sound is often how prey is located.
Many witnesses and survivors of non-fatal attacks estimated that the
crocodiles involved were in the range of 2.5 meters (8 feet) in length.
These animals could be placed in the weight range of about 100 kilograms
(220 pounds) and thus, weight for weight, the average human adult would
stand a chance of escaping and surviving attack from a crocodile of this
size. One could conjecture that these crocodiles were subadult or young
adult animals. The injuries suffered by the survivors of these attacks
also suggest that the crocodiles were small to medium-sized animals, for
the wounds inflicted included the loss of hands, feet, and breasts,
severe lacerations, and broken arms or legs.
A question from Troy Kelley:
TK> don't you think early man could have developed defensive strategies
TK> to guard against crocodiles?
[Okay, what about fighting it off?]
pp. 176-177 (continued):
However, the accounts of fatal attacks by large Nile Crocodiles -- 23
of the 43 attacks investigated -- indicate that these crocodiles were
extremely aggressive and ferocious. There were several instances where
crocodiles, having seized their victim, were either repeatedly stabbed
with spears or knives, beaten with sticks, pelted with stones, or had
sticks rammed down their gullets in order to prise the human victims
from their jaws...but to no avail. In these attacks few bodies or
remains were retrieved. Considering that a large Nile Crocodile may
weight [sic] up to fourteen times that of an average human and can seize
and drown Cape buffaloes as heavy as themselves, a human being, out of
his or her element in the water, has little chance of surviving such an
[The best defense seems to be not getting into trouble in the first
[Now these are some accounts of the problem of crocodile predation on
humans today. First note that this *doesn't* tell us anything about how
likely it was to get attacked or killed millions of years ago; what it
*does* tell us is that, even with crocodile numbers being cut back due
to habitat destruction and hunting, there is still a problem with with
these animals attacking and killing humans. (Estimates are that between
100-300 are killed each year in Africa by Nile Crocodiles and up to 1000
people a year throughout the range of the Indopacific Crocodile.)]
pp. 182-183:
Throughout the archipelagoes of Indonesia, the Philippines, and New
Guinea, together with the adjacent land masses of Malaya and northern
Australia, there is evidence that crocodiles have always exacted a
terrible tool on villagers living close to the water. Only the problems
of contact with isolated communities and poor communications have
obscured the statistics on fatalities and when and how they occurred.
Where reliable sources of information are available, they paint a
picture of regular predation by crocodiles on villagers and even
situations where entire communities have been terrorized.
A missionary at a village in northern Irian Jaya reported that no
fewer than 62 of the villagers had been killed or maimed by a rogue
crocodile in the 1960s. Six fatal attacks, ans a great number of
non-fatal attacks, occurred on Sarawak's Lupar River between 1975 and
1984. Tiny Siargo Island, off Mindanao in the Philippines, has reported
the deaths of nine villagers in recent years, all possible victims of
the same crocodile.
As the Indopacific Crocodile grows, the mammalian component of it's
diet grows in proportion. An individual of 5 meters (16 feet) in length
would generally be quite accustomed to killing pigs and, occasionally,
cattle, buffaloes, and horses. There are reliable accounts of leopards
being killed. Except where it has been hunted, there is no reason to
believe such an animal would recognize a human entering its territory as
anything other than a potential meal.

pg. 183:
When a potential meal approaches, in the form of a bird or perhaps a
dog, a hungry crocodile, apparently asleep on the bank, may slip quickly
and silently into the water. By the time the "meal" arrives on the
scene there is no sign of danger but the crocodile is watching quietly
from under the water. If the intruder approaches closely enough, the
crocodile explodes into action and grabs it in a ferocious rush that has
been compared to the eruption of a polaris missile from its underwater
base. The crocodile seizes the prey animal with its jaws locked onto
the head, muzzle, leg, or whatever part of the body is within reach. If
the impact of this first contact is not sufficient to disable the
prey animal, the crocodile tries to drag it into deeper water. The
notorious "death roll" may be be used at this stage to unbalance the
unfortunate victim. Once the contest has moved into the water, the
advantages are with the crocodile and the victim is drowned or killed by
crushing bites.
pg. 186 (picture of a river landing, captioned):
Adult Indopacific Crocodiles are territorial and will defend their
territory against intrusion, even by boats. A local woman, only
ankle-deep in the water beside this landing stage on the Daintree River,
Australia, was taken by a large male crocodile in December 1985.
[A typical attack, neither the victim or either of the two men standing
beside her heard or saw anything until she was grabbed and flipped off
her feet too quickly to even make a sound.]
Continued next message...
Jim Moore (

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