Written by: Tracy Burrows for Latest Sightings
“I anxiously watched as a zebra struggled in the sturdy jaws of a crocodile. In all probability the fate of the zebra was not promising,” said Jethro Manuel who captured the below footage in the Kruger National Park.
Jethro had stopped at Sunset Dam, just 2km from the Kruger’s Lower Sabie Rest Camp, at about 9am in the morning,
Jethro explains what happened, “We decided to try our luck with some game-viewing and watched the wildlife as they quenched their thirst or lazed about in the warm African sun. We did a quick sweep across the dam which indicated the presence of impala, warthog, hippos, zebra, crocodile and various species of birds.”
While Jethro casually munched a breakfast snack he kept a constant check on six zebra guzzling water through his binoculars. It was peaceful, when suddenly pandemonium struck! The zebras scattered, and birds hurriedly flurried away.
He spotted one zebra still in the depths of the water, and on closer inspection, its left leg was held in the jaws of a crocodile. Jethro continued to film and said he was captivated by this riveting scene, part of the ‘circle of life’ developing before his eyes.
Marc Lindsay Rae, head of the specialist safari division at Africa Direct explains, “A crocodile’s bite is approximately 5,000 psi (pounds per square inch) and is arguably one of the most powerful bites on the planet, if not the most powerful. In layman’s terms, that’s about 15 times the biting strength of a Rottweiler, and more than 10 times the strength of a great white shark.”
Unfortunately for this particular crocodile he was perhaps unable to establish a proper grip. Marc says, “Another common occurrence is that sometimes the constant thrashing about of the body attracts other crocodiles into the vicinity, and they try steal away the prey. Therefore the intraspecific competition between the crocodiles gives the prey an opportunity to escape while the crocodiles fight amongst themselves.”
Crocodiles are ambush predators and have perfected the way they hunt. Marc explains, “When they are in the water, only their eyes, ears, and nose are visible above water, making them barely visible. They can stay under water for up to two hours at a time. They are calculating and patient, and often study other animals for a time before they attack. Ultimately they can wait, deadly still, for hours in the same spot, and then they strike when their prey is within range. They lunge, with the help of their strong tail, and strike faster than the prey can move. The combination of the strong jaw pressure and their teeth is a fatal weapon. Once caught, the prey is dragged into the water and in most instances drowned. Crocodile’s jaws and teeth can kill and crush, but they can’t chew. Their food must be swallowed in its entirety. If they catch a prey that is too big to swallow at once, they shake their heads, and thrash it on the water tearing it into smaller pieces.”
This particular zebra was a fighter and was not giving up. A zebra’s defence is predominantly strength in numbers, heightened senses and a terrific turn of speed. Their weapons are confined to kicking hooves and they have a prominent row of powerful teeth in each jaw opposed to other antelope that have only in the lower jaw. But as indicated in the clip, they are rendered vulnerable to crocodiles when drinking at the water’s edge.
Marc concludes, “The zebra is now weak, one can only guess the zebra will most probably be killed by lions in the coming days, weeks or months. Lions have a phenomenal ability and sense to single out the weakest link – an individual that is injured – and will immediately look to hunting that individual down.”