I doubt any accurate statistics exist, but having lived alongside the crocodile-infested Luangwa River for most of my adult life, I have little doubt that crocodiles are responsible for more human deaths than any other wild animal in the region.
Almost all attacks take place during our summer (i.e. December to March), when the rivers are swollen by heavy rains, and most victims are rural village children, who cannot resist cavorting in the shallows along the banks.
A SURVIVOR’S TALE
- A friend of mine was once attacked by a two-metre-long crocodile. Having had his boat overturned by an irate hippo in the middle of the Zambezi River, he swam towards the shore. Just five metres from the safety of the bank, a crocodile lunged at him, grabbed him by the arm and dragged him under the surface.
- Knowing crocodiles’ tendency to spin after latching onto their prey, my friend wrapped his legs around the beast in a grim embrace. He attempted to gouge out the croc’s eyes, damaging his thumb in the process, but to no avail.
- Completely exhausted but with incredible clarity of mind, his last ditch attempt was to thrust his free arm down the crocodile’s throat and flip open the animal’s epiglottis, a kind of one-way valve at the back of its throat.
- As the creature’s lungs filled with water it released its grip, allowing my friend to swim to safety. If the crocodile had been any larger, he said, it would have been too powerful to fight off.
JOHN’S TOP TIPS TO AVOID A CROC ATTACK
- Clearly, the best thing is not to be attacked in the first place:
- Don’t swim in any rivers that might have crocodiles in them.
- If you must swim, avoid backwaters and inlets where crocodiles lie in wait.
- If your boat capsizes and you are forced to swim, keep calm – panic will only attract crocodiles. Don’t scream, shout or splash.
- If you fall in, swim straight for the shore, using breaststroke and underwater if you can.
If you found this useful, why not read the previous part – How to survive a shark attack?