For our latest series of posts here at UK Survival Guides we want to take a look at what happens when animals attack people.
We will start each post in the series with a little bit of information for the animal, some quick facts, and then followed by some tips to help survive an attack.
Our series will look at everything from small spiders to stampeding elephants but for the first in the series, we are going to be looking at the Nile Crocodile.
The Nile Crocodile is Africa’s largest crocodilian that can grow on average around 16 feet although they can reach a maximum size of around 20 feet. They live throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the Nile Basin, and Madagascar in rivers, freshwater marshes, and mangrove swamps.
While they will usually feed on fish, they won’t hesitate in attacking anything that crosses their path, and that includes people. They can also eat up to half their body weight in a single feeding. Because they have no natural predators in their hunting ranges, everything is prey.
It has been estimated that Nile crocodiles kill between 200 – 300 people per year. They are also responsible for more attacks on humans than any other crocodilian species. Around 63 percent of all attacks are deadly.
Contrary to popular belief, a crocodile’s bite isn’t automatically fatal. They use their teeth to hold the animal still while they thrash it around or drag it back to the water to drown. Their teeth are more tools than they are weapons.
Related: When Animals Attack 5: The Cassowary
If you’re wondering about the strength of their bite, let’s compare it to the bite of the average human. Our bite measures around 150 – 200 pounds per square inch (psi). That of an adult male Nile Crocodile is between 3,000 – 5,000 psi. Now that is incredible.
Nile Crocodile Quick Facts
- What is the scientific name for the Nile Crocodile? The scientific name for the Nile Crocodile is crocodylus niloticus.
- Is the Nile Crocodile saltwater or freshwater? They’re freshwater animals. However, they can also live in saltwater; their bodies are able to process the saline.
- How long can the Nile Crocodile stay underwater? They can swim underwater for 30 minutes before needing more oxygen, and they can remain stock-still underwater for up to two hours at a time.
- What is the lifespan of the Nile Crocodile? On average, Nile Crocodiles are thought to live between 70 – 100 years.
- How often does the Nile Crocodile feed? Nile Crocodiles can go long periods without eating thanks to their efficient metabolisms. They can actually survive for years without a meal but will usually eat a few times per month or whenever opportunity knocks.
- How strong is the Nile Crocodiles bite? The bite force of an adult male is between 3,000 – 5,000 pounds per square inch (psi).
- What animal eats the Nile Crocodile? They are apex predators. No one is above them on the food chain.
- What is the length and weight of the Nile Crocodile? Adult males generally measure between 11.5 – 16.4 feet from snout to tail; females being around 7.3 – 12.6 feet. Their weights can range from 500 – 1,650 pounds.
- What is their weakness? They may have an incredibly powerful bite but their jaw muscles are actually quite weak. They can be captured and restrained by humans when duct tape is wrapped around their snouts. Their jaws just can’t break free.
- How many eggs do Nile Crocodiles lay? Female Nile Crocodiles lay between 25 – 80 eggs at a time.
Reasons Why the Nile Crocodile May Attack
- Defence – They are highly territorial animals so may act in defence. This could be of territory, nests and themselves.
- Appetite – Like any other living species, they get hungry.
- Accidental – They may think they are attacking an animal but instead take hold of a human. I am sure there are much tastier things than people.
- Bad attitude – Some are just bad tempered animals and will grab anything that moves.
How do Nile Crocodiles Attack?
Crocodiles hang around in water knowing that all animals need to drink. If they are looking to eat a swimmer they will wait for the target to move overhead before striking from below. They will bite the prey and hold it firmly in their jaws while it rolls its body over and over (also known as the Death Spin/Roll). They will do this roll whether on land or in water which disorientates the prey.
If the part held by the reptile is a limb there is a good chance of dislocation or complete severance. The rolling will continue until the prey is dead and stops moving.
How to Survive a Nile Crocodile
1) Keep out of the water – if you know that there is a chance of crocodiles being in the water, the smartest thing is to keep out of it. If you are not local to the area, ask the local residents for safe areas to go swimming and keep out of anywhere that they warn you about. Never enter any water to go swimming if it is murky, or at night as they are likely to be hunting and it will make them much harder to see.
2) Don’t tease them from the banks – if you see one keep at least thirty foot away on land. Never tease them as they are not as slow as you may think.
3) Listen out for them – if you are out after dark and hear any hissing or crunching sounds in the undergrowth, get out of the area immediately.
4) Keep away from the edge of the water – as I mentioned, crocodiles are not as slow as you may think and they can launch out of water like a missile. Keep yourself, children and dogs well away from the edge of the water. They can hide themselves very well in water, often keeping just their eyes and nostrils above water or submerging entirely.
5) If a crocodile tries to attack you on land – run away in a straight line. They can outrun you on land but only for about 30 foot after which they will need a short rest. They will outswim you all day long.
6) Fight back – strike it repeatedly on its relatively sensitive nose, poke it in the eyes and scream. They don’t like resistance. They have a flap of tissue behind the tongue that covers their throats when they submerge in water. This prevents the water from entering the throat and stops it from drowning. If you have a limb inside the mouth of the crocodile, you may be able to pry this valve down which will cause water to flow into the throat which may make it release you.
7) If bitten, get help – the mouth of a crocodile is home to millions of bacteria, and infection is almost guaranteed if a bite is not treated promptly.