About Crocs of Katuma
The remote floodplains of Katavi National Park in the far west corner of Tanzania teem with incredible numbers of wildlife. A panoramic view of the big floodplains shows herds of elephant, buffalo and zebra that easily can run in the hundreds. All the animals in the park depend on the Katuma River and its flood plains for their survival.
But during the dry season the Katuma River dries out and pools of mud are the only visible evidence that a river once filled the dry riverbeds. In the quickly disappearing mud pools catfish, hippos and crocodiles compete for the last space to escape the heat of the equator sun.
Around these last pools crocodiles guard their nests. These nests prove that the water will return, as the young crocodiles once hatched need water to survive the first few months.
When they hatch and emerge from under the soil, the crocodile mothers will take their young into their mouths and carry them to the water. The monstrous beak, perfected by millions of years of evolution to kill, serves as a gentle cradle. But even the guarded eggs are not safe. Monitor lizards frequently raid crocodile nests and eat the eggs, leaving the crocodiles without offspring.
Crocodiles share their shrinking lagoons with hundreds of hippo. As the dry season advances, hippos and crocodiles have to fight for space. Some of the hippos, especially the young, die because of the drought or are taken off guard by hungry predators like crocodile, lion and leopard. Hippo mothers will fight forcefully to protect their young, sometimes with deadly consequences.
As the park gets drier near the beginning of the rains, the mud pools dry out. The crocodiles of Katavi then use their beaks to dig holes in the side of the riverbanks. They need protection against overheating and dehydration so they use the caves to shelter from the hot African sun. The water will run out fast and the caves are their only safe haven. Up to a hundred crocs cramp together to wait for the rains to return.
By this time the other animals are getting desperate. Antelopes and primates are forced to leave the cover of the Katavi woodlands to quench their thirst. Lions let go of their habit of hunting under the cloud of darkness; they hunt throughout the day and feed on everything they can get their claws on. The last remaining mud pools, fed by tiny springs, are over crowded with hippos and tempers are overheating& Rains are needed soon in Katavi.