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The Right Place, Kwando crocodile.

By Allan Cilliers:

In 1982 while working as Senior Ranger in the Kavango region I was notified of a crocodile attack on a villager in the Okavango River.

A game Scout Anton Kavera and myself immediately proceeded to a village in the Andara region, located near Bagani.

Investigating the case I was surprised to discover that a large crocodile actually came out of the water and stalked a woman sitting on a small sand bank sorting out her days laundry. The tracks of the crocodile clearly indicated that he slowly came out of the dark deep water, gripped the woman on her back and dragged her back into the water. Another person present tried to help her, but was no match to this powerful reptile. I searched the river for two days by boat, but the deep waters and multiple islands and rapids in this section of the Okavango River made my task extremely difficult. No crocodile or any human remains were ever found.

A crocodile is an opportunistic feeder and it normally kills large prey by drowning. They have acute sense of smell, its hearing is exceptional and it has remarkable eyesight. Like a snake a crocodile can feel ground vibrations, your footsteps from a good distance away.

The fact is a crocodile is one of the most difficult of all game animal species to hunt ethically. Shooting him out of the water and during daylight hours on foot makes them a worthy trophy.

In May after a successful elephant hunt my son Wayne, then continued guiding the client to hunt a crocodile in the Kwando River in our big game concession, Bwabwata East.

Realizing that the client only had 4 days left of hunting Wayne and 2 trackers scouted the banks of the swampy Kwando riverbank for any evidence of likely crocodile basking sites.

One site was discovered on the riverbank, and there was good evidence that a relatively large crocodile was using this frequently, especially in the mid afternoon. Except for a large tree 200 meters away it was an open grassy plain with no adequate cover.

A piece of elephant trunk meat was tied to a peg some 3 meters from the waters edge and some blood and small pieces of meat was thrown into the water.

Having no natural cover Wayne decided to set up a small 2 man camouflaged pop up hunting blind 25 meters down wind from the bait sight.

He set up the blind in such a manner that a side on shot to the crocodile’s neck would be possible.

The shot was to be placed exactly some 5 cm from the corner of the crocodiles mouth, the first cervical vertebrae is on that level. The idea here is to break the crocodile’s neck anchoring him on the spot. If the vertebrae were missed the crocodile would retreat and disappear forever in the dark waters of the Kwando River.

The following morning Wayne climbed the tall tree some 200m away. This made an excellent vantage point to observe the backwater and bait from a distance with a pair of binoculars. At around 15h00, Wayne observed the crocodile in the water, slowly approaching the bait. He then decided to leave the area and to enter the blind early the following day.

By 08h00 on the 3rd day the client and Wayne entered the blind, set up shooting sticks and sat down to wait. After 2 hours a loud rustling noise was heard behind the blind. Peering out, one of the side windows Wayne was surprised to see a elephant breeding herd about 30 meters away heading straight in their direction. Without any hesitation the client and Wayne quickly left the blind and made a hasty retreat over the grassy plains. Remembering what the Ju hoansi taught him Wayne quickly clapped his hands, which alarmed the elephant herd and then ran in the opposite direction.

Although there was a disturbance the client and Wayne stayed in the blind hoping to catch a glimpse of the crocodile.

Wayne explains,At 15h00 after a long wait I observed a flat dark patch almost drifting in the water. Although the shape was almost out of proportion, I recognized it to be, partly the nostrils and eye lids of a crocodile barely sticking out of the water. That shape lay motionless in the water for at least an hour. I clearly saw those distinct yellow eyes keeping watch for any sign of disturbance or danger.

Then it slowly moved towards the bank of the river straight for the bait. Reaching the bank only his head protruded out of the water resting it on the sand. It lay motionless for at least 30 minutes starring at the bait. Eventually the crocodile built up enough courage and slowly emerged from the water. He would take one step lay down, 5 minutes later another step then lay down, using this method until he reached the bait. The crocodile took at least 30 minutes to cover a 3 meter distance from the waters edge to the bait.

That prehistoric shape slowly emerging from the water had us both exited; we almost forgot to shoot.

I was also amazed that the crocodile took no notice of the camouflaged blind 25 meters from him. I am sure he thought it was a termite mound that was constructed over night by termites.

Knowing that the bait was 3 meters from the waters edge, and the croc laying the full length between the waters edge and bait, with a large part of its tail still in the water I immediately knew it was a good trophy.

I then instructed the client to shoot at the exact point we had discussed before just behind the corners of the mouth that forms a distinct “smile”.

The loud noise of the 375 H&H broke the silence of the African bush, and then sudden silence; the crocodile did not move an inch. We watched as the huge jaws slowly opened and then slowly closed and that was the last movement the crocodile made.

Looking through the binoculars the shot was placed perfectly, a shot that broke the neck and killed the crocodile instantly.

Measuring the crocodile at 3,7 meters, the client was happy ending a memorable safari in Bwabwata National Park , located in the Caprivi Strip of Namibia..

Client and Wayne with Kwando Crocodile

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