Crocodiles terrorise Kariba

Tourism and fishing activities on Lake Kariba and tributaries of the Zambezi River are under threat amid increasing concerns about the menacing rise in the crocodile population.

The number of crocodiles has been increasing for years, as have the numbers of people killed and maimed by the beasts. Tourists, resort operators and locals are urging the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management to cull the teeming reptiles, which they say have become larger and bolder. They are now tailing cruising vessels and seizing on every opportunity to kill fishermen and holiday makers alike.

There has been a number of incidents in recent weeks when crocodiles killed locals, fishermen and tourists. The Parks reaction teams in some cases have resorted to shooting the killer reptiles to retrieve the victims’ bodies.

Kariba is one of Zimbabwe’s main tourist destinations and attracts thousands of visitors every year. People come for annual fishing events such as the Kariba Half Marathon held in August, casual fishing, spear fishing, skiing, boat cruises and game viewing.

The crocodiles are reported to have invaded popular spots like harbours and favourite sites like Charara NAU and Lomagundi Lakeside where they are said to follow houseboats in search of food.

Cruise guides discourage holiday makers from throwing food into the water, saying that tends to encourage the crocodiles to get closer, thereby posing a danger to humans.

The increase in the numbers is blamed on National Parks, which forces crocodile farmers to release 10% of hatchlings into the wild. Others have blamed National Parks’ strict control of fishing activities in the Zambezi tributaries that has resulted in more fish in the waters, thereby providing a bigger source of food for the crocodiles.

The crocodiles have become more daring and can now be seen in places where they used to be rare, according to Kariba residents, who said they sometimes follow fishing boats and rip nets off.

“Crocs have lost their fear of man. Of this there is no doubt. Twenty years ago, the minute they saw you they disappeared, only to be seen again at night with a spot light. If you were lucky enough to see a croc swimming during daylight hours it quickly submerged and would not be seen again. Sadly that is not the case today,” said one resident who identified himself as Jase.

“I have had fish taken off my lines, keep nets removed and even the occasional "bump" underneath the boat. This is totally abnormal behaviour from these beasts. My solution to this ever increasing problem is that crocs should be sold on licence and shot,” he added.

Others suggested shooting the reptiles at all the popular places they now frequent because of a high human traffic volume, as a way of forcing them to retreat to less busy places, while hunting seasons should be launched to help reduce numbers.

One resident called on National Parks experts to carry out a formal survey to determine the population, while another said the department should investigate patterns of behaviour among the reptiles.

However, Parks spokesperson, Caroline Washaya-Moyo, told The Zimbabwean that her department was in control of the situation. “It is wrong to conclude that there are too many crocodiles simply because of tragic incidents whereby people have been killed. We should consider if the people who visit the areas where crocodiles are found are exercising sufficient caution to avoid confrontation with the reptiles,” she said.

“We must also be careful of a few people who tend to push their own agendas whenever there is an isolated even though tragic incident when one of them is killed or mauled by a crocodile,” she said.

Post published in: News
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