Join biologist Niall McCann as he heads to the hot marshy region of central Uganda to join a team of rangers from the Uganda Wildlife Authority who are helping communities by moving man-eating crocodiles away from the villages and into the national parks on Biggest & Baddest: Attack of the Giant Crocs.
It was quite a challenge, keeping myself from sinking down into the bed of papyrus floating on the surface of the river, while keeping the crocodile’s head above the water at the same time, trying to ensure that no water entered her mouth to avoid any risk of her drowning. It suddenly crossed my mind that there might well be other crocodiles in the area too, which might be quite interested in the group of juicy-looking men splashing around in the papyrus at the edge of the river: “Um, are there any other crocodiles around here?” I asked one of my Ugandan friends, who was helping me carry the crocodile through the papyrus: “Oh yes yes, many crocodiles!”
I was in central Uganda trying to catch man-eating crocodiles that had been terrorizing a community on the River Nile, and relocate them to a National Park, well away from harm’s way – where they could neither harm nor be harmed! The community in which I was working had experienced nine attacks in the past three years, including three fatalities. Any time an attack occurs the communities contact the Ugandan Wildlife Authority who send in their crocodile team, run by the highly-charismatic Peter Ogwang. Peter and his team assess the situation, deal with the patient if they are alive or the cadaver if the person was killed, and then attempt to catch and relocate the offending crocodile.
I was with Peter one morning as we visited the house of a young lady who had been attacked by a crocodile two years before. Her arm was terribly deformed, bent and weak, leaving her unable to perform the manual labor that is required in order to make a living in this part of Africa. I asked Peter about her case: “We heard about the attack, and were able to respond very quickly. We came to the village and took her away to hospital for treatment.” I asked him how many days after the attack that she had been taken to hospital: “About a month.” I couldn’t believe it! No wonder her arm was so badly affected, she hadn’t had any treatment for a month after being attacked, and Peter was indicating that this was a rapid response by normal standards!
Back in the papyrus swamp, after helping to rescue the camera man who sank up to his chest and needed some immediate assistance, we loaded the crocodile onto a waiting boat and then motored down-river to meet the rest of Peter’s team who was waiting with a tipper truck. We loaded the crocodile into the truck amidst an excited throng of people. Scores of people had come to witness the spectacle and crowded around us as we sat in the back of the truck, waiting for a ferry to arrive and carry us across the river. People wanted to shake our hands and talk to us, and a small number of people wanted to touch the crocodile too; many more were too terrified to come anywhere near it! I saw one of the local policemen walking towards us, clearly keen to see the crocodile for himself. That moment, the gentleman who had been sitting next to me jumped off the truck and raced off into the scrubland away from the road. The policeman saw him go and tore after him, but gave up after a few seconds and waved his hand in the direction of the fleeing man, before returning to the truck with an amused smile on his face. “What was that all about?” I asked another local friend of mine: “Oh, that man, he has some outstanding business with the police!”
The ferry was some time in coming so one of Peter’s team took a jerry can to the river’s edge and filled it with water, he handed it up to me so that I could douse the crocodile with water to keep it cool: we didn’t want it to overhead and suffer any unnecessary stress. People crowded in to watch as I stood and poured water on its back. Suddenly, roused by the splash of water, the crocodile writhed powerfully between my feet, banging its tail against the side of the truck. This violent movement sent every one of the watching people fleeing, running away with screams of fear and hilarity, while I stood precariously astride its writhing body! Eventually, the ferry came for us and we crossed the mighty Nile and drove to Murchison Falls National Park where, with the sun setting over a beautiful backwater of the river, we released this magnificent animal back into the wild where it belongs.
To watch it all go down, tune in to Biggest & Baddest: Attack of the Giant Crocs this Friday at 7/6c on Nat Geo WILD.