Starting to see more autumn desert weather. I love this season.
The Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) is the second largest crocodilian in the world, after the saltwater crocodile. It is an apex predator that can be found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, living in rivers, marshes, and lakes. Once they grow to a certain size, they are pretty much capable of taking almost any animal as prey - and any animal who must come to the water to drink, or cross the water during migration, is vulnerable. They have one of the strongest bites that have ever been recorded (5,000 lbf/22,000 N), able to clamp down with their jaws and maintain that pressure for hours.
Adult male Nile Crocodiles can grow to an average of 16.5 feet (5 meters) in length, and weigh up to 1,213 pounds (550 kg). But given enough time and adequate food, the older, mature males can be 18 feet (5.5 meters) or more, and weigh around a ton. Adult female Nile Crocodiles are slightly smaller, averaging about 12.5 feet (3.8 meters) in length. The larger specimens have become more and more rare since many crocodilian species, including Nile Crocodiles, were heavily hunted in the mid-20th century. But some of the big guys have earned a reputation. There is an old male named Gustave that lives in Lake Tanganyika in Burundi, who is feared by the locals and rumored to have killed more than 300 people. He is yet to be captured, so his precise length, weight and age are unknown.
Nile Crocodiles have the ability to submerge every part of their bodies but their eyes and nostrils, which allows them to employ an ambush hunting method. They can slowly move closer and closer to an animal bending down to drink from the water, and in an incredibly fast move they will launch themselves forwards and upwards, latching their jaws onto their prey and dragging it to the water to drown. It can also hunt out of the water, and can move remarkably quickly. Hunting on land usually takes place at night, lying in ambush along game trails and roads. The diet of a Nile Crocodile depends on the available prey and how big it happens to be, and they have been known to steal kills from land-dwelling predators like leopards and lions.
In general, the mating season of the Nile Crocodile takes place during the dry season, although it can vary by location. Gravid females will dig nest holes almost two feet (50 cm) deep on the sandy river bank, and lay a clutch of about 60 eggs. An expectant mother will cover the eggs with sand to aid in incubation and guard the nest for the entire incubation period, about 90 days. When she hears the young make the small peeping noises that tells her they are hatching, she will uncover them and gather them into her mouth, carrying them to the water. Jaws capable of dragging a wildebeest to its death can also be used incredibly gently, and females are able to help their young hatch by rolling the eggs around in their mouths. Nile Crocodiles are very social animals, basking in large groups and occasionally exhibiting cooperative hunting techniques by corralling fish into a corner and feed on them. They are also territorial, and establish a social structure through dominance.
The IUCN currently considers the Nile Crocodile to be a species of least concern, but as large, frightening predators that will feed on domesticated animals (and occasionally, humans) if they have the opportunity, adults are often killed on sight when possible, and when nests are discovered, they are deliberately destroyed. This fear is the result of the Nile Crocodile's reputation as a man-eater, which is not entirely undeserved. However, it is the only species of crocodilian known to attack humans that lives in such close proximity to them, which increases the frequency of contact and thus potential attacks. In the central and western parts of their range, populations are sparsely distributed and not well-surveyed. Their numbers can be affected by invasive plant species which provide more shade on nesting sites, cooling the eggs and yielding only female hatchlings.
Source for all images used in this post.