Daring Mission to Move a Dangerous Crocodile

Published on the 17th of June, 2024

The report was dire: A crocodile was terrorising the residents of Kamunyuni, a town on the northern fringes of the Tsavo ecosystem. Tragically, it had already claimed two lives.

Intervention was sought to put the community out of harm’s way. The Kenya Wildlife Service brought the situation to our attention and asked for support in a translocation mission.

On the afternoon of 15th June 2024, the SWT helicopter slung a lion trap to the scene. The team placed meat inside and then left it overnight, hoping the crocodile would be tempted by an easy meal. Early the next morning, the SWT/KWS Anti-Poaching Team went to check the trap — and sure enough, a crocodile was inside.

Now came the tricky part. Crocodiles are among the most difficult creatures to sedate because of breathing complications. Rather than risk anaesthetic, the team manually restrained the crocodile.

There was some question if this was the culprit crocodile — reports suggested that culprit was quite a bit larger — but given the charged situation, KWS decided to go forward with the translocation. The crocodile was wrapped in canvas, packed into the helicopter’s side cargo crate, and flown into the far reaches into Tsavo East National Park. It was successfully released into the Galana River, within a pristine habitat that is miles and miles from any human habitation.

However, in an effort to be absolutely certain that we had gotten Kamunyuni’s culprit crocodile, the team re-set the trap with a large, tantalising hunk of meat inside.

The following morning, the team discovered a formidable creature inside the trap. She was significantly larger than the previous day’s crocodile, at least 13 feet long and weighing approximately 500 kilograms. The community were confident this was the man-eating culprit.

The team knew she was too large and powerful to risk manual restraint — and that is where the helicopter came to the rescue: The team slung the entire trap, with the crocodile still caged inside, beneath the aircraft. Then, the helicopter made the slow, airborne journey downriver, deep into Tsavo East National Park. Like her predecessor, the crocodile was released into the Galana River, where she won’t put any humans at risk.

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