Katavi crocs piling up in front of a croc-cave along the dry river bank, oct 2006.
D200, 80-400 5,6, 95 mm, f5,6, 1400, ISO 400
I saw this TV program the other night about a couple of biologists diving to film crocs in under-water caves in Botswana, and had immediate flashback on my own experiences with "croc in caves" (... I didn`t dive with `em though !). My story is from Katavi National Park in western Tanzania, all the way towards Lake Tanganyika and the border to Congo. This is my "African Paradise" and actually a well kept "secret" for many photographers. I`ve had the pleasure to visit Katavi several times, often in combination with Ruaha NP. In the wet season the Katavi plains is a huge and for people inaccessible wetland, and in the dry season it converts into a super-dry environment with only one single and critically insufficient source of water for basically the whole Katavi ecosystem.
The crocs here are huge, they grow up to more than 5 m length and can weigh up to 1 ton. Reaching this size the crocs may be as much as 70-80 years old (the oldest croc ever recorded was 115 !). While the wet season in Katavi is a "crocs Nirvana", the dry season is the opposite. When the last ponds of water dry out in the shrinking river, the crocs survive by digging caves into the river banks and pile themselves up by numbers in the dark. These caves "belong" to the crocs and are being used year after year. They slow down their metabolism and can stay without food for as long as up to 6 months. My Katavi friend Apollo Ambilikile once witnessed such a croc-cave collapse and counted 67 (!!) huge crocs crawling out of the dirt.
My pictures are "a couple of years old", and the quality is a little "un-even", but the story is great I think. The pictures have not been blogged before.
See you in Africa !
Katavi crocs outside cave, oct 2006
D200, 80-400 f5,6, 135 mm, f7,1, 1/200, ISO 400
Katavi crocs, oct 2007
D300, 200-400 4,0, 280 mm, f7,1, 1/180, ISO 400
Katavi crocs, oct 2007
D300, 200-400 4,0, 330 mm, f7,1, 1/180, ISO 400
While staying in the caves dirt fall down from the "ceiling" and is being sedimented on the crocs. Even inside the jaws there is hardened mud layers. Incredibly the crocs do nothing to get rid of this armour until the wet season dissolves it again in dec /jan. Katavi oct 2007.
D300, 200-400 4,0, 280 mm,f6,3, 1/160, ISO 400
D300, 200-400 4,0, + 1,4 conv = 550 mm, f9,0, 1/180, ISO 400. Katavi oct 2007.
The crocs make no effort to get rid of the hardened mud-helmet.
D300, 400-400 4,0 + 1,4 conv = 550 mm, f9,0, 1/320, ISO 400. Katavi oct 2007.
Muddy croc-mates, Katavi oct 2007
D300, 200-400 4,0, + 1,4conv = 550 mm, f9,0, 1/320, ISO 400
Aggressive and at this stage : angry croc guarding her eggs. Katavi oct 2008.
D3, 200-400 4,0, 400 mm, f14,0, 1/800, ISO 1000
Female croc guarding her eggs. Katavi oct 2008.
D3, 200-400 4,0 + 1,7 conv = 650 mm, f13,0, 1/640, ISO 800
"All things must pass" (George Harrison), even the super predator of the wetlands. The pressure in the croc jaws can exceed 1000 kg, and a set of teeth lasts for about 2 years before new ones grow out. This guy here will never grow new teeth (and his old teeth are now in my drawer !). Katavi oct 2007.
D300, 200-400 4,0, 280 mm, f9,0, 1/320, ISO 400
This croc apparently died on his way into the cave. The huge croc body now blocs the entrance of the cave (somebody in there ?) and is slowly being eaten from the back. Katavi oct 2007.
D300, 200-400 4,0, + 1,4 converter = 550 mm, f6,3, 1/160, ISO 400
Anyone who expires in these surroundings is immediately being recycled in the ecosystem. These are white backed vultures. Katavi oct 2007
D300, 400-400 4,0, 200 mm, f11,0, 1/500, ISO 400