Zambezi Killer

Zambezi Killer

Namibia June 2012


By W.C.R. – 12 years old

“To be passionate is to love to do something even if others do not understand why you enjoy it.  People who do not share your passion may consider the activity horrible or strange.  Hunting is a passion of mine.  Those who do not understand my passion may call it unethical or even cruel and, because I love to hunt, I feel I should defend it.  Hunting to me is not simply killing: that is murder.  Sometimes killing is a part of hunting, however.  When I shoot any animal, I do my best to honor it by making use of every part possible.  Whatever I kill, I eat, and the parts that I don’t eat I try to use in some other fashion.  To me, hunting is the adrenaline I feel in the mile-long run through the thorn bush in Namibia after an eland.  It is crouching and crawling through cactus in the Wyoming desert after pronghorn.  I would rather stalk for miles after an animal and never take a shot than to step out of a truck and shoot the animal. 

Last year, I hunted black bear in Canada with my father.  We stalked a large boar through thick trees along a river until we came to a small open meadow.  The bear charged and I remember the animal’s amazing speed, power and grace.  Even as my shots stopped the charge and killed him, I felt a great respect for the fantastic, perfect, muscular beauty of the bear. 

This summer we had the opportunity to hunt in Africa.  We learned from some of the local people that there was a problem crocodile nearby that had recently eaten two children.  The next day, as I lay in the mud on the bank of the Zambezi River opposite that crocodile, its sleek, powerful body fascinated me, blending perfectly with the African foliage.  I was awestruck by its terrible ability to have eaten children and by its ancient wisdom not to have been captured and killed already.  I believe that hunting and taking that crocodile was an ethical passion.  The pursuit of the eland, the charge of the black bear, and the helping of the people in the Caprivi by taking a crocodile, these things are hunting to me.  This is why hunting is my passion.”

Last year, I hunted black bear in Canada with my father.  We stalked a large boar through thick trees along a river until we came to a small open meadow.  The bear charged and I remember the animal’s amazing speed, power and grace.  Even as my shots stopped the charge and killed him, I felt a great respect for the fantastic, perfect, muscular beauty of the bear. 

 

This summer we had the opportunity to hunt in Africa.  We learned from some of the local people that there was a problem crocodile nearby that had recently eaten two children.  The next day, as I lay in the mud on the bank of the Zambezi River opposite that crocodile, its sleek, powerful body fascinated me, blending perfectly with the African foliage.  I was awestruck by its terrible ability to have eaten children and by its ancient wisdom not to have been captured and killed already.  I believe that hunting and taking that crocodile was an ethical passion.  The pursuit of the eland, the charge of the black bear, and the helping of the people in the Caprivi by taking a crocodile, these things are hunting to me.  This is why hunting is my passion.”

 


 

by Jofie Lamprecht

At the Dallas Safari Club convention in 2011, I met young W.C.R. and his family. I was impressed by his maturity and looked forward to hunting with him in the fields of Africa. A good friend, Mike Wilks from New Zealand, had introduced me to them and we immediately started planning a combination hunting and photographic safari to Namibia.

 

Once most of the safari had been planned for plains game species the topic of crocodile came up. We would be spending two days on the Zambezi River on the far eastern tip of Namibia’s unique Caprivi Strip with the intention catching some tigerfish and photographic safari. To add a crocodile hunt onto this would be interesting and an adventure. I am always up for a challenge as well as an adventure.

 

Plans were made to secure a tag in the Impalila Conservancy. I warned W.C.R. and his family that to allocate just one day to hunt a Crocodile was going to be incredibly difficult. To add to this we would not be able to put out baits in time due to logistical issues not having anyone on the ground to help us with this.

 

After a very successful plains game hunt conducted on one of our concessions we first flew up to Etosha National Park for the first leg of our photographic safari. W.C.R. and his father had successfully taken several species and it was time to put down the rifles and pick up our cameras for a few days. W.C.R. had shown a calm and confident demeanor with his rifle. It was still a concern for me that we were about to embark on a hunt for one of Africa’s dangerous seven and one of the hardest to kill.

 

This unique specie has a long history in our world tracing back more than 150 million years… and are in fact more closely related to birds than any other living reptiles. A killing machine that boasts a four-chambered heart, permitting more efficient blood oxygenation and improved limb articulation that, permits a better gait. For those of you that have experienced their dexterity and speed – it will outrun any human but can only “gallop” for a short distance. Having changed very little in the last 65 million years – a true dinosaur in modern times. The Nile Crocodile is on average 8 to 11,5 feet in length – but can grow up to a maximum of over 19 feet, weighing in at more than 2,000 pounds.[1]

Famously difficult to kill, with a golf ball size brain and the above-mentioned four chambered heart fitting easily into a grown man’s hand. Shots need to be precise. A good shot in the brain or neck offers immediate results with the mouth springing open. A bad shot will often result in the Croc jumping into the water and be lost forever. There are not many people brave enough to jump into the water after a wounded Croc even though they will not attack one under water. They will only attack one on the surface. As those insane enough to SCUBA dive with them in Botswana…[2]

 

Our charter plane touched down on Impalila Island and we enjoyed the tranquility of our private island with just four Villas – with only the family and myself having this little piece of paradise all to ourselves. Immediately I jumped into planning for the next days hunt, inquiring with camp staff and the local community about the whereabouts of big crocs. Being very territorial, big crocs usually have the same haunts and will often lie on exactly the same spot every day to soak up some rays.

 

A relaxed afternoon was spent on the water whilst game viewing, a dinner under the stars and then a comfortable nights rest.  Dark preparations began for the day’s hunt. The boat was prepared, rifles onboard and cool box filled with water and drinks. After a quick breakfast there was a commotion in camp. On investigation, a local tribesman asked me if we were the “Crocodile hunters”? On the confirmation of this, the local fisherman told us of a large croc that had, in just weeks prior to our arrival, caught and eaten two children from a nearby village. He pleaded with us to please try and find ‘that’ croc and take care of him. I promised to try our best, and off we set on our mission. The skipper of our boat was told where ‘the’ croc liked to sunbathe, and we made our way there. We slowed the boat as we approached the ‘slide’ where the perpetrator was supposed to be only, to find the bank empty with tell-tail tracks confirming that indeed a large reptile frequented this river bank.

 

It was too early and the cold-blooded killer had not come out to bask yet. Out came the fishing poles and we proceeded slowly down the channels trolling for tigerfish while secretly scanning the banks for the scaled killers. Locals in this part of the world will tell you crocs have an intuition and know when they are being hunted. The skipper was very pleased with our pretense of fishing with the rifles ‘hidden’ out of sight.

 

We saw several crocs that were too small, and I decided to pass on. We still had time and ‘the’ croc we were looking for deserved another pass to see if he was home. We caught and released a few small Tigers before turning the boat around in the channel to return to the slide where we were earlier.

 

As we came around the corner of the channel, the skipper pointed and simultaneously cut the motor pointing us towards the opposite bank. His beady eyes, wide jowls and belly almost black in color stared at us from the opposite bank. He was lying exactly where the local told us he would be. What luck! As we beached the boat the croc twitched uncomfortably.  I thought it was over. He moved a few inches and lay still again.

 

The drill had been discussed; W.C.R. and I were to slip over the edge of the boat onto the sand bar, which was perfectly 60 yards away from our target. We crawled to the nose of the boat and peeped around to verify that ‘the’ croc was still there. He lay at an awkward 30-degree angle to us and, as I pulled the bi-pod of Clarence’s rifle open, I indicated it would have to be a neck shot. Lying prone we both took aim. Earmuffs pulled down and a silent click of the safety – all was set. I aimed at the target’s head through my scope to back up the first shot. An eternity passed in my mind – all really happening in a fluid few seconds. W.C.R.’s shot broke.  The ‘Zambezi killer’ Croc’s mouth sprung open in textbook fashion. My shot broke a millisecond later with the young hunter’s rifle being reloaded.  As planed and discussed, shots were fired through the shoulders and then the hips. So many stories of the ‘Croc that came back to life’ have been told – we were making sure that he was secure and not going anywhere. I ordered the young man, in deep concentration, to stop shooting. We both put our rifles on safe, jumped back onboard the boat and raced across the channel to secure our trophy. The Community Ranger and I jumped off the boat and immediately tied the croc’s articulated limbs up and back so that he could not get away.

 

A father’s proud smile, a young hunter’s big eyes and giddy grin were celebrated with high fives and a lot of backslapping. Before lunch we had achieved our goal. Luck was on our side and an animal that had taken so much got what it deserved.

This croc is still proudly featured in the Namibian Professional Hunters Top 10 crocodiles hunted of all time.

 

 

[1] Field guide to Snakes and other reptiles of Southern Africa – page 269

[2] Diving with wild crocodiles By Anna-Louise Taylor Reporter, BBC Nature News:    http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/17032648

 

 

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Photography by: Jofie Lamprecht