The Crocodiles of the Okavango Delta have suffered from over-hunting in the past and it was only intervention of few conservation-minded individuals - and an intricate under water system of tunnels - that saved the species.
For many years guides and locals in the upper reaches of the Okavango wondered where Okavango Delta crocodiles disappeared to when they moved from view into the vast papyrus beds that dominated this part of the Delta.
Recent discoveries have shown a vast network of tunnels under the papyrus that enable the animals to navigate from one side of a papyrus float to the other in a matter of seconds. The underground lairs also allow the Okavango Delta crocodiless to stay hidden for extended lengths of time.
During the early and middle parts of the 1900's the Okavango Delta was divided into two, for the benefit of two Crocodile hunters to hunt the reptiles for their skins. These two hunters shot tens of thousands of Crocodiles between them but it was realised that if the hunting continued the Crocodiles would disappear from the Delta. Efforts were then made to reintroduce them.
In another development Crocodile farms were set up under the conditions that 5 percent of all eggs harvested in the wild had to be allocated for relocation once they hatched. This became problematic when the farms did not abide by the conditions. Today however there is a concerted effort to save the Crocodiles of the Okavango.
The sex of Crocodile hatchlings is not determined by genetics but rather by a fascinating temperature related procedure that has evolutionary theorists debating long and hard. The female Crocodiles lay their eggs in holes in sandy river banks they dig themselves, up to 50cm deep, and it is said that if the temperature in the nest stays below 31 degrees Celsius the hatchlings will be females and if between 31 and 34 degrees the offspring will be males.
It is possible the layers the eggs are laid in may differ in temperature, and as such male and female will be hatched from the same clutch.
Are there crocodiles in Botswana?
Although most people visit Botswana to experience the pristine wilderness and Big Game, the Okavango crocodiles will always feature, be it a sighting of them lazing open-mouthed in the sun on the banks of one of the waterways or as part of a tour of a Crocodile Farm. Always an attraction, the Crocodile and a safari in the Okavango Delta will go hand in hand.