National Geographic: Last Feast of the Crocodiles

Synopsis:
Year:
1995
12 Views

This is the story of a pool and the

animals that cannot live without it.

It's a place where hippos

and crocodiles survive

in mysterious harmony.

A crowded pool...

where predator and prey

are drawn together

and where strange things happen

that have rarely been seen before.

At this pool thirst can be dangerous,

and drinking...

becomes a deadly game of chance.

When the pool shrinks in

an unrelenting drought...

there is a desperate fight for life.

A wild anarchy takes over that

only the fittest can survive.

Here in a strange communion hippos

attend the last feast of the crocodiles.

A river in Africa...

It's known as the Luvuvhu

or Hippo river,

and where land and river meet there

exists a rich concentration of animals.

For countless years,

this river has sustained life

in the northern reaches of

South Africa's Kruger National Park.

When good rains have fallen

there is abundant water for all,

but this year little rain fell,

the river dwindled to a narrow channel,

and finally stopped flowing.

The pools that remain in the

river-bed are life sustain oases,

and this which is one of

the largest and deepest,

and has never been known to go dry,

is a favorite refuge

for hippos and crocodiles.

For those who have to

drink here each day

the challenge is

to drink and survive.

With over 60 crocodiles congregated

here caution becomes the first rule.

Wise in the ways of the pool,

oxpeckers, on their floating islands,

drink safely,

and these unpredictable giants

don't seem to mind the few extra

ounces of their company.

But, more extraordinary is this young

crocodile, the smallest in the pool,

who's become a regular passenger

and is possibly safer

basking on the surprisingly tolerant

hippos than with its own kind.

Wily baboons have another strategy.

They dig pits at the pool's edge

and drink the seepage water,

rather than risk a croc attack.

In contrast, this female impala is so

stressed by thirst she's beyond caution.

Dazed and distracted she finally drinks

in the worst possibly place.

Crocs aren't the only problem here.

These impala have run afoul

of a white- crowned plover,

whose eggs are

in a depression in the sand.

These birds only rest nest near water,

and so, when the river dries,

the fringe of the pool

becomes prime real estate.

But it's also a busy

and dangerous throughfare -

crocs come here regularly to bask.

Crocodiles lumbering up the bank are

a major hazard for the fragile eggs.

But, unlike the timid impala,

the crocs ignore the birds' warning cries.

Lucky this time...

and she settles down again to brood.

Hippos spend their nights grazing,

often far from the pool, and,

by day, they too like to lie

in the warm sun.

A large wet snout,

applied with surprisingly gentleness,

seems all that's needed to clear

some space on the crowded beach.

There's no hurry...

we're all relaxed and easy here,

and the great reptiles gradually

respond to gentle nudges

until all accommodated

to their liking.

Another close call for the plovers.

As the crocodile returns to the pool.

But it's all just part of the price

for a good waterfront site.

Hippos are a nuisance for the plovers

- they don't leave much space

between them.

The rains that usually revive

the river are late this year

and the water level in the pool

drops rapidly.

Fishing birds move on

and find good pickings

among the fish trapped

on the shallows.

The yellow-billed stork's

juggling act is no game,

but a way to tire the fish into

relaxing its sharp, erected spines.

Crocs eat fish too...

they're also cunning thieves...

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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