African crocodiles are large aquatic reptiles that have been on the planet for more than 150 million years, living in the warmer bodies of water like the Okavango Delta in Botswana. There are four main types of African crocodile: the big one – the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus); West African crocodile (Crocodylus suchus), also known as the desert crocodile; the Slender-snouted crocodile (Crocodylus cataphractus), and the Dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis). There are other species, but they aren’t hunted. All four species of African crocodile continue to grow their entire life.
The Nile crocodile is a large, aggressive reptile with a broad snout that is more noticeable on older animals. Coloring runs from dark bronze to deep brownish-black as it ages. If you decide to hunt Nile crocs, anything between 13 and 15 feet would be considered a very good trophy. They are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and can live in brackish water, but prefer freshwater habitats. These are the reptiles that come to mind most often when a hunter imagines croc hunting.
The West African crocodile has been shown through recent studies to be a distinct species from the larger Nile crocodile. Its territory stretches from Gambia east along the Atlantic Ocean. It is on the critically-endangered list and cannot be legally hunted.
The Slender-snouted crocodile is found in Central and Western Africa. It’s a medium-sized reptile that feeds mostly on fish and small vertebrates. Weight runs between 275-500 pounds and length can vary in mature adults from 9 to 13 feet. It’s hunted primarily for meat and hides, and usually not considered a trophy.
Last, there is the Dwarf crocodile. Its habitat runs from Angola to Senegal and is the smallest of all living crocs. It’s heavily armored and is uniformly colored black. It lives in tropical forests, and is a very shy nocturnal hunter. During the day, it digs a burrow, sometimes with an underwater entrance, where it can hide.
Most hunters who go on a croc safari plan on hunting the Nile crocodile. They can be hunted in numerous countries. Almost all the large rivers in Africa have a good population of these professional-grade assassins. An awful lot of villagers have had their last bath courtesy of the big Nile crocodile. The crocodile is mostly teeth, tail and appetite. He’s an equal opportunity eater; consuming just about anything he can get into his mouth. He’ll also digest anything he gets down his gullet. If you hunt crocodile, you want to remember that given a chance, you could easily become his next snack.
Nile crocs have been found to have everything in their stomach from warthogs to rocks. The stomach acids are strong enough to dissolve bone – and your shoes, should you happen walk too close to a hungry croc. And don’t think something that prehistoric, that large, and being run by a brain the size of an ear of corn is slow. Crocodiles have been known to come out of the muddy water and catch an impala 30 feet from the bank before the impala could get cocked and locked.
Their teeth are hooked and not suitable for chewing. What they are good at is holding on to some part of their new meal’s anatomy. Then they spin until said part of the anatomy is removed. Open goes the mouth and whatever is there disappears down the gullet. If the animal is too big to eat, the Nile crocodile will take it down to the river bottom and stuff it under a convenient tree root until it decomposes to its liking. Not fussy eaters, the Nile croc.
Actual hunting crocodile can be very exciting. The Nile crocodile is truly a cold blooded reptile and can absorb a tremendous amount of punishment and still live. There’s an old African saying among Professional Hunters that is as valid today as it was 100 years ago: “A croc ain’t dead until the hide’s salted and on the wall.” Even then, it would be prudent to have some sort of large artillery close to hand.
Crocodiles being cold blooded have to regulate their body temperature with the sun. They spend a lot of time working to raise their internal temperature by lying on the river bank soaking up the heat. They are quite difficult to stalk and the usual procedure is to park the safari truck at least a half mile away from the river bank and walk in from there. Quietly, it goes without saying. Because if the croc hears you coming it won’t even leave a ripple in the water as it disappears.
Shots can be anything from 50 yards to 200 yards, or further. This will depend on how well the hunter can approach the crocodile and how good the hunter is with a rifle. If a Nile crocodile is shot, but not killed, it will most likely head for the water, swim to the bottom and die and be lost. Remember, the brain is very small and it’s protected by a boney skull. Shot placement must be right behind the eyes. The most reliable shot is from the side where the target will be two to three inches wide and deep.
Caliber? An accurate .30 caliber rifle with at least a good 180 grain bullet like a Trophy Bonder Tip with ballistics of 2900 feet per second and 3500 foot-pounds of muzzle energy would do the job. The .33 to .35 caliber rifles with a similar 250 grain bullet would be a better choice. However, as you will probably be shooting from a prone position, anything in the .375 range, and up, will smack your shoulder pretty hard, but, if that’s the rifle you’ve got, go with it.
Seven Crocodile Facts
- Scientific Name (Nile): Crocodylus niloticus
- Adult weight range: 900-1800 lb
- Adult length: 13-15 feet – some much larger, up to 19 feet, but very rare
- Range: Somalia to South Africa
- Speed: Land 8-9 mph, water up to 20 mph
- Life span: 60-110 year
- Prey: Up to small elephants and Cape buffalo
A range of trophies below, hunted by some of the African Dawn Members