Known for their ferocity and strength, crocodiles are the most successful freshwater predator. They can creep up on prey without giving their position away and their bite exerts a ton of force, easily crushing bones. But even with all these characteristics to their advantage, this croc in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal could do with a little more practice in securing its meal. Pictures by Matthew Schurch

When Dr Matthew Schurch of the Kgalagadi Leopard Project and his parents visited the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve in February this year, they decided to drive by Mphafa Hide in the hope of finding some animals quenching their thirst. What they found was one very hapless (and hungry) crocodile outwitted by not one, but two animals.

“The park was suffering terribly with the drought and the riverbeds were dry with the exception of a few pools. After a morning of slow sightings we decided to call into the Mphafa Hide on our way back to camp. We knew there would be water there,” Matthew explains.

“As we walked down the long entrance passage, some people informed us that a crocodile was having some fun with giraffes. We quickened our pace not to miss the excitement. And sure enough: there was a group of giraffes drinking from the water’s edge and within a few minutes commotion ensued. A crocodile lunged at one of the giraffe’s head…”

According to Matthew, the giraffe reacted quickly enough and raised his head clear of the lunging crocodile. “Of course, the event caused panic amongst the other giraffes and they all made a quick exit.”

Bit off more than you can chew?

Matthew says it was quite clear that the croc was outmatched. “The croc was hunting way out of his league with an animal the size of a giraffe. We settled down and waited to see if some more suitably sized prey would arrive. About an hour later a lone female kudu gingerly made her way to the water – straight into danger’s way. I readied myself, and my camera, for what was to come.”

Matthew’s father, Keith, recalls: “She drank for about two minutes, looked up, relaxed and settled down for more. The tension in the hide was high. A shadow suddenly appeared in the greenish water right in front of the kudu. We all held our breath. A sudden rush, a mighty splash, and the croc very nearly had its prey, foiled by the lightning swift reactions of the kudu.”

Better luck next time?

“We were all pleased that the kudu had escaped, but you had to feel for the poor croc – trapped in a shrinking pool hoping to catch the odd weakened animal. Back in Cape Town we were amazed to see how close the croc had come to nabbing his dinner when we froze the video at the moment of attack. That kudu gets a 10/10!”

Camera specs

Photos: Nikon D800 and Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 lens, 1/1000s, f/5.0, ISO 200
Video: Nikon D7000 and Nikon 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 lens

Video by Keith Schurch

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