Serendipity… “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”.

The word ‘serendipity’ can undoubtedly relate to a number of instances we encounter in the bush, some through the preconceived knowledge and experience acquired through years of working and living in the bush, and others out of pure luck and fortuitous timing. On this occasion, it was a case of being in the ‘right place at the right time’…

CrocAirSwallow-1829

A serendipitous encounter led to this large crocodile catching an equally (relatively) large catfish.

In anticipation of the arrival of a herd of elephants at a nearby dam, we waited patiently, watching a number of male village weavers meticulously constructing their nests as we wiled away the time. A pod of hippos moved about in the shallows and a few crocodiles basked in the sun on the banks of the dam. Soon some commotion caught our attention and we noticed a large crocodile ushering a school of catfish towards a shallow outlet of the dam. I readied my guests and we got our cameras ready for a potential and imminent strike… With fierce power and lightening quick reactions, the crocodile launched an attack, thrashing its robust body from side to side and successfully managed to take grasp of a large catfish in its powerful jaws and razor sharp teeth.

CrocAir1-1848

Securely grasped in the jaws of the crocodile, the catfish has little to no chance of escape.

To our amazement, the catfish continued to flap tirelessly in the jaws of the crocodile for quite some time until it finally succumbed to the injuries sustained from its fierce competitor. Continuously thrashing the catfish around, the crocodile attempted to break the catfish in half in preparation for swallowing its worthy catch. Unbeknownst to many people, crocodiles are unable to shallow their prey below the water surface and therefore need to launch themselves out of the water and throw the prey upwards and into the mouth so as to prevent water from gushing down their throat.

CrocAir-1869

Moments after the catch, the crocodile attempts to disable the catfish by throwing its powerful body against the water.

In a series of photographs below, one can see the sequence of events that took place.

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Launching its muscular body out of the water, the catfish can already be seen partially disemboweled.

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The ‘death roll’ is performed by the crocodile in which extreme force and successive rotations of the body cause the catfish to partially tear in half.

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Splashes of water can be seen as the crocodile initially enters the water.

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The inner flesh of the catfish can been seen as the mighty force of the crocodile manages to tear it apart.

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Thrashing its powerful body and head, the crocodile splashes water exceeding heights over two metres (7 feet) above the surface.

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A powerful and aggressive whip of the crocodiles tail can be seen through the ripples in the water.

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With splashes of water and ripples still evident, the crocodile settles to assess its progress.

A few more thrashes from its powerful body, the crocodile successfully managed to tear the catfish in half, after which it proceeded to throw the now mangled fish into the air and down its throat.

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By throwing the catfish into the air, the crocodile is able to position itself to swallow its prey accordingly.

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Still with its head out of the water and with the catfish now of appropriate size, the crocodile begins to consume its well-earned meal.

This is one just example of how being in the right place at the right time can result in a spectacular sighting and how when you head out on safari you just never know what you might find.

Filed under Wildlife

About the Author

Callum Gowar

Field Guide

Growing up in Cape Town, the opposite end of South Africa from its main wildlife areas, didn't slow Callum down when embarking on his ranger training at Londolozi at the start of 2015. He had slowly begun moving north-east through the country anyway, ...

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10 Comments

on How Do Crocodiles Feed?

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Jill Larone
Guest

Wow, what an incredible sighting that must have been! Fantastic pictures Callum! That is one huge crocodile and I find them really terrifying. Thanks for taking us along with you — great recount of what happened and incredible pictures!

Callum Gowar

It certainly was an incredible sighting to witness! A first for me. Many thanks for your kind words Jill.

EJ Heinzer
Guest

Wow, that was the most graphic “still” photos could be. I am such an (all) animal lover from urban and suburban areas and have a difficult time encountering animals in the wild, feeding. My critical thinking mind knows it is the only way all these beautiful creatures can stay alive since there is no one at home with a NY prime steak on the barbie!
My husband and I will be guests at Londolozi the end of February and I have enjoyed waking up each morning to a new blog about life in the bush. I know that through these fabulous pictures and heartfelt descriptions of the cycles of life, this neophyte will be better able to deal with the queasy feelings when viewing nature. Thank you all for your stories.

Callum Gowar

I unfortunately was to involved in attempting to capture that perfect shot that I did not film any of the sighting. Nonetheless, it was incredible to witness! We all look forward to your visit at the end of the month and hopefully you will be able to better understand and ‘follow’ the animals once seeing many of them in person.

Lucas Buxton
Guest

Whats anticipated age of this big lizard Callum ? And typically when do they tend to nest, given the recent rains you have just had.

Callum Gowar

Lucas, it is great to have you following the blog! Knowing your experience you could probably answer these questions better than most! However, bearing in mind that gauging the age of animals in the wild is incredibly difficult and in discussion with my tracker, we estimated the crocodile to be around 60-70 years old. They would tend to lay their eggs during summer with the varying temperature determining the sex of the hatchlings. Indeed, the recent rains would often affect incubation and thus the potential survival of the eggs, but that is one just reason that makes these ancient animals so remarkable, as I’m know you would attest! Take care and see you in May!

Patsy Crisp
Guest

WOW! What a wonderful sequence of fantastic pics!

Callum Gowar

Thank you very much Patsy! I was very fortunate and privileged to witness such an event.

Callum Gowar
Guest

It certainly was an incredible sighting! Many thanks for your kind words.

Lucas Buxton
Guest

Autumn Is Amazing, the skies are spot on! Thanks for the great info.

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