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  • Maxine Smith

The Nile Crocodile

If you're lucky you may see some eyes or head poking out the water of a waterhole or even luckier if you catch one sunning itself on the bank, maybe even with its mouth open showing it's big grin. It's doing that to regulate temperature. As they are reptiles, they are unable to do so on their own.

The Nile Crocodile is a fascinating creature and is the largest crocodile in Africa. It can reach a maximum size of about 6 metres and can weigh up to 750 kg. Average sizes, though, are more in the range of 5 metres and 220 kg

Crocodiles have the strongest bite in the animal kingdom. The Nile crocodile can exert a force eight times more than a great white shark and 15 times more powerful than a Rottweiler's. The Nile crocodile has very strong muscles for closing the jaws, but, much weaker muscles for opening them. Female crocodiles interestingly show impressive maternal care. They use their huge jaws to transport newly hatched babies to a ‘nursery pool’ where they guard them against predators. The gender of new crocodile hatchlings depends on the temperature that the eggs are incubated at. Anything less than 30ºC and they will be mostly female hatchlings, at around 31ºC they will be mixed and at 32ºC, they will be mostly male hatchlings. Out of all the reptiles, crocs are the most vocal. There are more than five different calls including a deep vibrating bellow of a courting male and the "peeping" sound that the babies make inside the eggs. The "peeping" stimulates the female to dig the nest.

Like a diver that uses weighs to balance buoyancy, large crocodiles swallow stones, that are known as gastroliths. These act like weights to help them balance their body underwater. There is so much to learn about this powerful creature, so next time you see one on the banks or in the water, ask your guide or look it up, they may surprise you.

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