A leopard tortoise in the Kruger National Park should have known better than taking a nap next to Sable Dam. Here a hungry crocodile does not think twice about devouring whatever it can close its jaw on. By Abraham Mouton

During one of our visits to the Kruger National Park, we travelled from Mopani to Letaba Rest Camp with quite the detour – we simply had to visit one of our all-time favourite spots, Sable Dam. Aside from the hide, there are several interesting paths leading to the dam. Through the years, we have learnt to keep a vigilant eye for especially elephants when venturing along these less-travelled routes.

Along the dam’s tributary we spotted buffaloes cooling off in the water, many bird species and a water monitor crossing a sand bank. Even while marvelling at all these wild wonders, we were fixated on a gigantic Nile crocodile lying motionless on the opposite bank.

We watched as the impressive reptile moved towards a sandbank behind it. It then suddenly came to a halt and lifted its head and front legs. The croc was now staring at something in a patch of nearby grass. What was it, and what would happen next? We were perplexed.

Can this be real?

Within a flash, the croc was on top of the sandbank. Seconds later, it returned to the water with a large leopard tortoise wedged in its jaw. We couldn’t believe our eyes.

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The crocodile headed down to the water to drown its prey and enjoy a crunchy meal. And just like that, the croc disappeared not to be seen again.

Not only was a croc preying on a tortoise an incredibly rare sighting, but we were fortunate enough to capture the whole spectacle on camera.

Did you know?

Turns out the croc’s shelled meal is not so strange after all. According to the author of What’s that Reptile?, Johan Marais, crocodiles are anything but fussy when hunger strikes. “It happens quite often and they easily cope with cracking a tortoise’s shell.” If you think about it, they can handle large prey like rhinos, hippos and small elephants.

All fallacies!

  • Birds do not clean a crocodile’s teeth when it basks in the sun with the jaws wide open.
  • Crocodiles do not use their tails to knock prey into the water.
  • Crocs do not store food in underground lairs.
Source: What’s that Reptile? Johan Marais. Struik Nature. 2011.