The reasons these animals are labelled as the big five, can be traced back to the time before these animals enjoyed protected status. These five animals were regarded as the most difficult animals to track and hunt on foot by the big game hunters. However, South Africa is blessed with many varied and interesting species of animal, not least the world known crocodile! Although this magnificent creature never made it on the list of the ‘Big Five’ it is and remains one of the most interesting and intriguing of sites for visitors and animal lovers alike.
The croc, as crocodiles are fondly known, is believed to be in the region of 200 million years old, dating back to the dinosaur age. Studies of the ‘croc’ have demonstrated that its appearance has changed little in this time and as aquatic reptiles of a significant size it is easy to see why the crocodile did not need to evolve as much as other species. The bodies of crocodiles are streamlined helping them to move swiftly through the water aided by the ability to tuck their feet neatly into their sides. Water resistance is at a minimum and even the webbed feet of this reptile are not used for propulsion through the water. The webbed feet allow crocs to move rapidly and make sudden moves and sharp turns and if you are fortunate to see a croc in action it will be a lifelong memory you will have from your South African vacation.
Known as an ‘ambush hunter’ the croc relies on stealth and complete stillness before launching an attack on a hapless fish or other unsuspecting land animals. These attacks are rarely seen on South Africa vacations as the croc's can lay in wait for extended periods for its prey, sometimes going days without food due to its low metabolism.
One animal for whom the croc holds no fear is the Egyptian plover bird which acts as the crocs hygienist by feeding on parasites dwelling in the crocodile’s mouth. For this to happen of course the croc has to open its mouth to allow this small bird access to this cavernous region, a true example of a natural symbiotic relationship.
It is an exciting prospect to see a croc on your South Africa vacation and visitors will be transfixed to see many of these magnificent creatures lie there with their jaws wide open. As crocodiles do not have sweat glands they have to release the heat their body generates through their mouths, much like a dog does when panting but far more impressive. Crocs also have the ability to sleep with their mouths wide open which again can prove to be an unnerving sight for the first time visitor to South Africa!