From : Postzambia.com

By : Story and picture by Edwin Mbulo in Livingstone

1 April 2012

LIFE for Webster Masiliso would have come to a gruesome end on Sunday, March 18, in the jaws of a crocodile as he tried to cross the Muramba stream.

The attack happened around 18:00 hours as Masiliso, 30 was on his way home to Libuyu.

He had been in the company of his friend Chine Masanda, who run away leaving him to battle for his life with a Nile crocodile.

Masiliso, who is still in the Livingstone General Hospital nursing five bite wounds, said he was crossing the shallow waters of the stream when he felt a sharp pain on his left calf.

“The waters were almost up to knee level and when I felt a sharp pain, I looked down and saw that it was a crocodile. I did not panic; I just stood still and moved with it as it started to drag me to a deeper part of the river. I did not want to resist because I realised at this moment that if it twisted it was going to break my leg so I followed its drag,” Masiliso said.

He said at a point where the water was waist deep, the crocodile twisted in an effort to drown him.

“I fell in the water as I did not want it to break my leg and I decided to fight it by poking my thumbs into its eyes and it let go. However, it came back and bit off a piece of my left leg. It came back for the third time and got hold of me by my right leg and dragged me under. I pushed my hand into its mouth so that I can find its tongue so that I pull it but I could not get anything hence the bite on my right hand,” he explains.

He said at one moment, he punched the reptile hard on its stomach and when it let go, he swam deep under the water while the reptile went on top looking for him.

Masiliso said at one point he climbed on the reptile’s back and inserted his fingers in its eyes and it let go off him, only to pounce on him again later.

He disclosed that he has lost three veins on his left calf and two veins on his right calf.

“At all this time, I was screaming to my friend to help me as I was dying but he was nowhere to be seen. I fought and screamed for help until I managed to get out of the water,” he said, grimacing in pain.

However, Masiliso’s bravery could be attributed to him having worked for a crocodile farm in Gwembe before he relocated to Livingstone.

His wife Zelipa Zulu who has two children with him said her in-law’s boss took him to the hospital after he was attacked.

And Livingstone General Hospital personnel say his condition is stable but would be in hospital a little longer as to avoid infection to his wound.

And a wildlife official says the Nile crocodile is responsible for more attacks on humans than any other crocodilian species.

After lions and hippos, the Nile crocodile causes the highest numbers of wildlife-related fatalities in Africa.

It is difficult to estimate the total number of attacks per year as many non-fatal attacks go unreported, but it is believed to exceed 300 per year since the year 2000 (Namibia eight attacks while Zambia had 22 attacks in 2000 and Kenya 13),” the officer who sought anonymity said.

He said there is a high chance of crocodile attacks due to the increasing (recovering) populations of crocodilians.

“Like other dangerous predators, crocodilians cause reflexive fear in humans, perhaps because the fear of being eaten is greater than the fear of being bitten. Many animals will bite, but only a few see humans as prey to be eaten. It is a miracle that Masiliso survived after being dragged into deeper waters. He was brave as he did not allow pain and fear overcome his survival instinct,” the officer said.

He added that of the 23 species of crocodilian, eight are known to carry out unprovoked attacks on humans.

“Of these species, attacks by the saltwater crocodile (C. porosus), Nile crocodile (C. niloticus) and American alligator (A. mississippiensis) are best known. Less commonly implicated in attacks are Black Caiman (M. niger), Morelet’s crocodile (C. moreletii), Mugger crocodile (C. palustris), American crocodile (C. acutus) and the Indian Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus). Two unprovoked, directed attacks by Australia Freshwater Crocodiles (C. johnstoni) on humans are considered to have been cases of mistaken identity,” he said.

The ZAWA officer said reasons why crocodilians attack humans without any provocation are thought to be, hunting for food as all crocodilians are opportunistic feeders, eating a wide range of prey.

“With increasing body size, crocodilians shift to larger prey, and humans are well within the size range of prey that can be taken by crocodilians. The other reason is defence as they are highly territorial, and will defend their territory against intruders, including humans. Defence of nest and or young: Most crocodilian species exhibit some form of nest defence.”