Crocks. Sublimely comfortable, colourful, useful and almost universally hated in fashionable circles. I used to own a pair until they mysteriously disappeared. My wife said that the dog ate them…
This story is not about those crocks. It's about an animal altogether more sinister, but also used in making less-than-fashionable footwear.
But let us start at the beginning:
Pieter lives in a stunning house near the Wolwe river. This little perennial stream serves as a drinking spot for many of Swebeswebe’s wild animals. Nowhere in the river would you find pools deep and stable enough for a crocodile to make their home in…except that the crocodile in question did not read the Rules of Ownership on Swebeswebe
Matty, our local Shepard dog and son of the above-named person, loves nothing more than to rush into one of the nearest pools of stagnant water, and then slide up for a chin rub; mud and all.
On this faithful (for the crocodile) day, Matty was on his normal splash and mud routine when we heard; “first a yelp, and then a CLAP”. Matty came bounding, but instead of his old, boisterous self, he seemed to be rather subdued.
Investigation proved that, in one of the small pools in the river, there was now a monster crocodile.
It is hard to believe that this saurian could even fit into the little puddle he was. To be hidden away, he had to dig under the already undercut bank and form a natural hiding spot with some tree roots to keep the worst of the midday sun off.
At the word that we would go “crocodile catching” William grabbed a hooked stake, a small piece of rope and a large helping of courage. Koos, our neighbour on Colesberg, was informed and a strategy worked out. It turns out that this particular crocodile disappeared out of a dam on Colesberg about six months ago. He lived from pool to pool throughout our rainy season and only ran out of living space and water this late in the season. This led to him having to creep the fence in search of water, which he found on Swebeswebe
I will admit that I have a love/hate relationship with crocks. I love the fact that they are so highly evolved (the last dinosaur, but sporting a four-chambered, mammalian type heart), that they cry when they eat (crocodile tears happen when the jaw presses against the tear duct on opening) and that they are exceptional mothers.
I have a few, let's call them reservations, towards the species as well.
First and foremost is their ability to survive just about anything. Drought, no problem. Floods, bring it on. As long as they have a source of food. And should that run out, they will just go into thanatosis (an almost hibernation) and wake up when conditions are more favourable.
And food could be anything from fish to an elephant! Kid you not. I am still convinced that more people get taken by a crocodile than is recorded. People go down to the river, never to be seen again…
Once we decided on a plan of action, the sport started. First, we needed to know where exactly the sharp end was. A nice-looking log prodded the prostrate body of the crock in the water. He splashed away as far as possible. A little more prodding served to rile him up some more. Then he turned, facing the log and…SNAP…
The closing force on a crocodile’s jaw is immense. You could fully feel the transferred power from the bite to the log. He started his death roll, nearly ripping the log clean out of my hands.
Koos was desperately trying to get a strap over its neck, or even just its jaw. Wayne took William’s hook, rigged up the hook with the strap and told me to lift its head. I wish to confirm that it worked!
We had him!
It took the power of four men, three on the strap and one at the tail, to get him out of the puddle. A rope was tied to the jaw to stop it from opening. And then bound with isolation tape.
Even though a crocodile has one of the most lethal bites in the world closing, it cannot boast about its ability to open the jaw up.
The poor thing was hog tied in no time. I almost felt sorry for it, all helpless in the care of its captors.
We carried the crocodile to a waiting vehicle, huffing and puffing through the undergrowth, and loaded it on the back of the vehicle. We saw it go to its home; one with a real dam. And lots of food. Maybe even a mate with an equally toothy grin.
Swebeswebe still has a few natural crocodiles in the Kliprivier system (all on the Northern side of the reserve). One is about two meters long, one about one and a half, and another only about eighty centimetres. Currently, they live only on the occasional dove, fish and some other unlucky prey.
We will monitor their size and movements and make sure that their population does not grow to dangerous proportions.
Crocks. Love them or hate them, they make good shoes. Even if my wife hates them!
The small pool now without the croc!