Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Nile Crocodile

About a month ago I was walking along the river and something in the water caught my eye. I raised my binoculars and I saw a crocodile. The animal immediately disappeared. I was 100% sure of what I had seen and I had a fellow eye-witness.

I spent a lot of time trying to relocate the animal and even began to doubt what I had seen. Last week my crocodile duty paid off and I saw the animal and managed to get some photographs.

This is a good record for the Soutpansberg Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation and also for Limpopo in general. The Nile Crocodile is under immense human pressure and is considered vulnerable. The threats to the species are summerised in the latest red list of South African Reptiles as follows:

The main threat is degradation of aquatic habitat. This includes degradation of lakes, wetlands, dams, rivers, and estuaries, construction of dams in rivers, water contamination, and removal of water for agricultural and industrial uses. Illegal sand mining and urbanisation also result in habitat destruction. Other threats include persecution by humans (killing of adult crocodiles and destruction of nests), negative effects of invasive vegetation, fire, over-fishing with gill nets, crop encroachment, harvesting for the medicine market, and accidental poisoning that may be associated with leaching of fertilisers into water sources. 

(Marais, J. 2014. Crocodylus niloticus (Laurenti, 1768). In M.F. Bates, W.R. Branch, A.M. Bauer, M. Burger, J. Marais, G.J. Alexander & M.S. de Villiers (eds), Atlas and Red List of the Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Suricata 1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.)

To have a free roaming animal like this in the area is really a privilege and is a good motivation to push for the conservation of the specific area and western Soutpansberg region. With proper protection of the area I am sure in the future a breeding population can be established.