There is no sign that the recent crocodile die-offs in the Kruger National Park (KNP) are abating. KNP water specialist, Dr Andrew Deacon, conducted a crocodile census in the Olifants and Letaba Rivers last week Friday, June 27 as part of the park's efforts to find answers and solutions.
The final report was not completed at the time of going to press and should be ready within a week. "We are also waiting for results from the water and soil samples we took in the area around the Olifants gorge, as well as from the post mortems that were sent to Onderstepoort in Pretoria," says Danie Pienaar, head of scientific services in Kruger. Although some of the water results indicate that the rivers' water is within acceptable standards, Danie is not happy that the tests had covered all bases.
"We are looking into the possibility of organic compounds, and these are not easily detected through our usual sampling and testing methods." Samples have been sent to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the South A f r i c a n Bureau of Standards (SABS) who will forward the samples to Norway a s So u th Africa does not have the capacity to test for organic compounds.
Experts and scientists across the globe have contributed advice, information and opinions. Finding a solution quickly does not seem viable as, "we are not sure what is killing the crocodiles," and even when that is known it still must be determined how that causes the pansteatitis. This condition, revealed by post mortems on several recently dead crocodiles, is caused by the depletion of anti-oxidants in the bodies of these animals.
The depletion results in the hardening of the crocodile's fat reserves into a rubber-like mass, which is unavailable for normal metabolism. It causes the animal to lose mobility and eventually starve to death. In the mean time the death toll is rising and has now exceeded the 60 mark. Apart from the crocodiles dying in the Olifants gorge near the Mozambican border, another carcass was found at Ngotso spruit near Balule camp.
Trails ranger Nicole Coetsee also found a carcass upstream from the Letaba and Olifants River confluence between Engelhard and Klikoppies dams in the Letaba River.