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KING AMONG KINGS

de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2007). King Among Kings. Montage. March-April 2007. Pages 24-25. Volume 1, Issue 3. About Crocodiles.
The problem with photographing crocodiles is that they spend most of the time doing nothing. Rather like our politicians. I always draw a chuckle when I show a picture of a crocodile during an illustrated talk and say it is one of the local politicians. The chuckles are more in reference to the predatory habits of crocodiles, although the lack of visual appeal may also strike a chord.
However beauty is in the eye and over the years I have come to respect and admire the crocodiles. Despite appearances, in evolutionary terms it’s a very successful animal. Its basic design has remained un-changed for millions of years. This bears testimony to the success of its design. Because it uses the water for hunting the graceful leopard is considered the top hunter amongst the terrestrial animals. One of the few animals which can mount a threat to the leopard is the crocodile. In fact the only animal which will attack and kill an adult leopard is a crocodile.
There are two species of crocodiles in Sri Lanka. The Marsh and the Estuarine. Fortunately for us, the majority of the thousands of crocodiles in our wewas are marsh crocodiles. They (at least the ones who have read the text books) don’t kill and eat people. The Estuarine Crocodiles don’t seem to suffer such reservations and any unwary human is on the menu.
Crocodiles are opportunist hunters and will take small fish and amphibians although a spotted deer or buffalo would make for a more satisfying meal. Handunoruwa in Yala is a good place to photograph crocodiles around August when a seasonal drought has reduced many of the man-made lakes into small bowls of water. White-lip was one of my favourite characters. He would bully all of the other crocodiles and engage in physical intimidation if necessary. Oh dear, I feel another political analogy coming on.

Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne (gehan@jetwing.lk) is a writer, photographer and tourism personality on a mission to create a million wildlife enthusiasts. E-mail him to subscribe to his quarterly wildlife e-newsletter.