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Ivory Coast croc keeper killed by a croc

2012-08-21 20:27

Dakar/Abidjan - A revered crocodile keeper has been killed by the animals he cared for at a sacred lake in Ivory Coast's capital Yamassoukrou, local media reported on Tuesday.

Dicko Toke, a veteran keeper, had fed the creatures for 30 years at Caiman Lake - created artificially by Ivory Coast's founding President Felix Houphouet-Boigny in the early 1980s.

The lake was filled with enormous crocodiles and blessed by animist priests as part of Houphouet-Boigny's drive to turn his home village of Yamassoukrou - then a quiet backwater in the middle of the country - into the capital, replacing Abidjan in the south.

The crocodiles were given names such as "Captain," "Vice-president" and "Parliamentary speaker" and visitors turned up to watch keepers toss live chickens into the lake for the creatures to catch between their giant jaws.

Toke, who was on the cusp of retirement, was killed after posing for photos on Monday with the crocodiles for a group of Pakistani UN soldiers, Yamassoukrou's news agency reported.

After the photos had been taken, Toke attempted to leave the shore of the lake, but was grabbed by Captain, one of the largest crocodiles. He attempted to stab the creature with a machete before being dragged under.

Toke is not the first person to be killed by the legendary crocodiles. When Houphouet-Boigny died in 1993, a supporter of the president dived into the lake, screaming that if the leader was dead then he should be too. His body was never recovered.