Many think lions are at the top of the predator hierarchy… I don’t.
I think crocodiles hold that top spot.
Crocodiles are an ancient predator, we’re talking millions and millions of years unchanged. Most animals will avoid a large crocodile if they have the choice. Last week I watched a herd of about twenty elephants come to drink at a waterhole where two crocodiles were lying on the bank. The elephants, even the large-four-ton females, flailed their ears out at the sight of the crocodiles but did not even try to chase them or push them back into the water. The crocodiles were avoided by the whole herd and left to lie peacefully where they were at the start. On another occasion I watched a large elephant bull walk directly towards a very large crocodile that he hadn’t yet seen. When the elephant noticed the crocodile he stopped immediately, stuck out his ears in display, turned around and made his way back in the direction he came from. The crocodile barely moved an inch.
A few years ago a male lion was taken by a crocodile at a waterhole not far from camp. The lion and his brother had been sleeping close to the waterhole in the morning, and in the afternoon when the game dive vehicles returned, all they found was one brother calling mournfully, and tracks of where the second had gone for a drink and then been pulled in. His body – or at least what was left of it – floated to the surface a day or two later.
In the story I will tell today, however, the crocodile’s prey was far less impressive than a lion: it was an Egyptian goose. But what transpired was still pretty epic
At first the crocodile would pull off pieces of the Egyptian goose under the water and then surface, sticking its head out to ingest the piece. Crocodiles cannot feed under the surface because that would make them ingest too much water… so they lift their head out at an angle to swallow chunks of meat.
The crocodile made its way around the waterhole with its prized prey. At one stage it was behind bushes and we could only see through a small gap.
At first I couldn’t make out what bird the crocodile was eating… one of the guests even thought it was a fish eagle based on the colour. In this moment we could see that it was a goose.
Here we go, the first huge thrash the crocodile was trying to break off bigger pieces! It was a long build up. At this stage I had been watching for at least forty minutes.
Luckily the crocodile then started to move the bird away from the bushes into the open… I was now hooked and hoping to see another display like the one I had just seen!
Bang! There it was! The crocodile lifted itself out of the water and threw the bird into the air…
Encapsulated by an awesome display of water droplets, feathers, scales, and movement, the two-hour long wait paid off.
The crocodile continued to behave like this for another half an hour or so. It would move the goose around the water, nudging it with its nose or gripping it in its jaws. Every so often the crocodile would break off another piece. I have always enjoyed crocodiles, and this sighting left in me with a huge sense of awe for these incredible prehistoric beasts.