Mystery over washed-up croc head

2013-01-14 10:22
Brigitte Cary Smith poses with a crocodile head which washed up on the beach at St Lucia in KwaZulu-Natal. (The Witness)

Brigitte Cary Smith poses with a crocodile head which washed up on the beach at St Lucia in KwaZulu-Natal. (The Witness)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories


Crocodile 'eaten' by shark

2013-01-14 08:54

This crocodile head that washed up on a beach at St Lucia, KwaZulu- Natal has sparked much online debate. WatchWATCH

Durban - A gigantic crocodile head, found washed ashore on the beach at St Lucia, has locals abuzz and determined to find out “whodunnit”.

Was it poachers? A shark? Or that most dangerous of African mammals, a hippo?

The head of the reptile, which is thought to have been around 3.5 metres long, was discovered by Neale and Brigitte Cary Smith, about a kilometre from the mouth of the Black Umfolozi River on 5 January.

Since then, the couple, who have lived in the coastal hamlet for nine years, have been surprised to see their story and the video of their find become something of an international sensation.


“It has created a huge amount of interest all over the world and local people have gotten involved and are doing some investigating,” Neale said, adding that representatives of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, who had seen the enormous head, had agreed with him about the reptile’s approximate size.

“There has been a lot of debate over whether it was poached for muthi, or killed by a hippo or a shark.

“The general consensus is that it was poached. But hippos can and do do this kind of thing to crocodiles.

“About 18 months ago, in the estuary, crocodiles killed a baby hippo. The adults were very angry and attacked the crocodiles and bit them in half.”

But the possibility remains that the culprit could be a shark - a big one.

Neale said: “I do a lot of fishing and see sharks biting other sharks, marlin and so on and the marks on the crocodile looked to me like a shark bite.”

He says as much in his YouTube video, even pointing out an area on the flank of the crocodile and saying: “You can see where the shark has actually ripped it. On the side here, in the flesh, you can see the shark teeth.”

As for the muthi theory, Neale says only the animal’s tongue and entrails are usually removed, but the weight of the reptile’s head - around 50kg to 60kg - meant he couldn’t turn it over to confirm whether or not the tongue was still there.


Mike Anderson-Reade, from the Natal Shark Board, said that in nearly four decades of working with sharks, he’d never heard of one taking on a crocodile, but he couldn’t rule out the possibility.

“It’s rare for our fresh water crocodiles to go into the sea, and one wouldn’t stay in very long if it did because they have an osmosis problem and would dehydrate. They are not like the saltwater crocodiles in Australia,” Anderson-Reade added.

As for whether the reptile might have been preyed on after death, Anderson-Reade said it would be difficult to prove.

Both tiger and bull sharks frequent the North Coast and the latter are notorious for hanging around river mouths and estuaries, as they are able to live in both salt and fresh water.

Anderson-Reade thought it unlikely that a tiger shark was involved. “While tigers [sharks] can and do swim inshore and are notorious for eating anything and everything they come across, they would be unlikely to enter a fresh-water environment.

“Unlike bull sharks, they simply would not survive in this kind of environment,” he added.

The Witness attempted to contact Isimangaliso Wetland Park chief executive officer Andrew Zaloumis for a comment, but was unsuccessful.
Read more on:    durban  |  animals

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.