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Beneath the waters hidden danger lurks to snatch the unwary

 

Very few people can claim to have killed as many crocodiles in their lifetime as Khalid Hassan – approximately 17,000 mostly in the Lower Shire/Elephant Marsh area. Khalid, now in his early seventies and still active, gives a brief history.


I grew up on the family farm in the Central Region close to the border with Mozambique. In those days, the area was rich in game and I was a keen hunter. My early family life as a husband and father was disturbed when I lost my job. It was suggested that I should try crocodile hunting. I had never even seen a crocodile.

 

On my first excursion to Malembo, a fishing village on the south west arm of Lake Malawi, I shot three crocodiles. I earned more from selling those three skins than I had previously earned in a whole month. My mind was made up. In 1963 I was allocated the hunting concession for the Shire River from Liwonde to the southern boundary of Malawi at Nsanje. This was the beginning of my long love affair with the area. Even today, with CITES restrictions on the number of animals to be shot, I still enjoy a few days a year in my old hunting grounds quite often in response to requests for help in shooting some elusive man-eating crocodile.

 

I am very happy to be able to eradicate the most dangerous of these animals which cause so much grief to my old friends, the people of the river and the marshes. These occasions can also be very sad. Often the remains of the unfortunate victim have to be removed from the carcass. Before catch restrictions were imposed by CITES, I regularly shot 800 crocodiles a year.

 

Throughout those years my activities had no apparent effect on the overall crocodile population. But then, I never hunted in the breeding season. CITES now restricts the total Malawi cull to 200 of which 25 have been allocated to me. There has been an increase in deaths from crocodile attacks in recent years.

 

This may be for several reasons – the growth in the crocodile population and the decrease in fish stocks due to increasing human activity forcing hungry crocodiles to seek alternative food. Once a crocodile becomes used to human flesh, it will continue to hunt humans as its favourite food. I estimate that during the warm season, when crocodiles are at their most active, an average of two people a day are taken by crocodiles in the Lower Shire area. The situation is aggravated by the starving females who have been guarding their eggs for three months and have not been able to feed. After the hatching, from January to March they hunt agressively. There is certainly no indication that these animals require protection from extinction! Like so many hunters or reformed hunters, I have a love of the bush – of the animal and bird life, of the beauty of the land and the trees. Hunting in Malawi is no longer a rewarding pursuit. The rapid growth in the human population rather than hunting activity has caused massive declines in the wild animal populations.

 

The work of conservation now being undertaken in the Lower Shire Valley shows great promise and will hopefully preserve some

Khalid with the tools of his trade

spectacularly beautiful areas and the animals for posterity – perhaps when the quality of life for the average Malawian has been raised above subsistence levels to a stage where education and more leisure time allow for an appreciation of what is in danger of being lost.

 

I do what I can for conservation as a director of African Parks (Majete) Ltd , the Endangered Species of Malawi Society, Chinguni Trust and as Chairman of the Professional Crocodile Hunters Association of Malawi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
   
 
 
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