The Nile crocodile or Crocodylus niloticus, famous for its integral association with Ancient Egyptian culture, and feared for its highly aggressive disposition, is a crocodilian found in freshwater habitats in 26 African countries. An apex predator and a generalist, the Nile crocodile does not shy away from attacking a human for a meal. However, humans also have not been kind to these crocodiles and poaching of the species is decimating their populations. Learn some fascinating facts about these Nile crocodiles in this article.
The Nile Crocodile Is Not Limited To The Nile River
The Nile crocodile is not just found in the Nile River but throughout much of Africa. The historic range of the species was, however, wider and stretched as far as Israel and Syria across the Red Sea. Currently, the range of distribution of this species extends from the tributaries of the River Nile to Egypt's Lake Nasser, and Botswana's Okavango Delta to South Africa's Olifants River. Madagascar hosts some isolated populations of the species. These crocs can adapt to a variety of habitats ranging from fast-flowing rivers and lakes to estuaries and swamps, among others.
Nile Crocodiles In Florida: How Did They Get There?
In recent years, crocodile researchers in Florida found a reason to worry. Nile crocodiles were captured in South Florida far away from their native habitat in Africa. Fortunately, no evidence indicating that the population was reproducing was found. If they were multiplying, it would mean that the waters in Florida could turn dangerous for humans. While the native American crocodiles are among the gentlest of crocodilians and hardly attack humans, Nile crocodiles are quite different in disposition . Several specimens of the latter were captured by researchers but their source of introduction is unknown. Possibly, they escaped captive facilities that kept these exotic crocodiles as pets.
They Are Their Biggest Enemies
Although the hatchlings of Nile crocodiles may be killed by African fish eagles or honey badgers, and juveniles be preyed upon by big cats or African rock pythons, the adult Nile crocodiles have no one but members of their species as their biggest enemies. Like most crocodilians, these animals are cannibalistic with an aggressive disposition towards members of their kind.
Humans Have Every Reason To Fear The Nile Crocodile
Unlike most other predators like tigers, leopards, and American crocodiles, Nile crocodiles appear not to think twice before nabbing a human being. Thus, they have received the infamous tag of the most aggressive crocodilian. The saltwater crocodile is the only other crocodilian that can give it some competition. The fact that the Nile crocodile lives in proximity to humans through much of its habitat means human-croc interactions are quite common. Although strong evidence is absent, estimates suggest that about 200 people die every year in the jaws of this fierce predator.
These Fearsome Predators Are Caring Parents
The Nile crocodiles are unusual in that they are caring parents. While most reptiles move on after laying eggs, Nile crocodile parents, both mother and father, savagely protect their nests until the eggs hatch. They are even known to roll their eggs gently in their mouths to assist the hatchlings to emerge from the shell. The female King Cobra is another reptilian that exhibits such protective attitude towards its eggs.
Nile Crocodiles Kept As Pets In Egypt's Nubian Village
In some Nubian villages along the Nile River in Egypt, tourists can relish a unique sight. Many homes in such villages keep Nile crocodiles as pets. Juvenile crocodiles are captured and encaged by the village folk. Crocodiles in large iron cages can be seen in the village homes. Mummified crocodiles are also displayed to tourists. However, although such exotic sights might serve as tourist attractions, the thin line between captivity and cruelty is often crossed. Keeping wildlife encaged is a questionable practice.
Ancient Egyptians Feared And Revered Nile Crocodiles
The Nile crocodile was much feared in ancient Egypt and was responsible for the death of many humans. But the ancient Egyptians worshipped the animal as their deity as they both feared and revered them. Carvings of the Nile crocodile is common in ancient Egyptian tombs and temple complexes. Like the present-day Nubians, some ancient Egyptians also kept crocodiles. They were highly pampered and when they died, they were embalmed, mummified, and then buried in sacred tombs. Many such mummified crocodiles have been discovered by archaeologists in the present day.
Nile Crocodiles Are Subjected To Cruel Poaching Practices
Recently, reports about poaching of the Nile crocodile have surfaced in some parts of their range, especially Lake Nasser of Egypt. Once worshipped as deities, these crocs are now subject to cruel poaching practices that noose them with barbed wire traps or entangle them in fishing nets after dazzling them with a spotlight. The captured crocodiles are then killed for their hide, meat, or body parts to be used as an aphrodisiac across East Africa. Some are also captured for the illegal trade in exotic pets.
While Egyptians worshipped crocodiles in the ancient times, people in India continue to worship crocodiles even today. Read such a story about Gangaram, India's 130-year old crocodile, who won thousands of hearts in this article here.