The Crocodile Attack Alarm

The Crocodile Attack Alarm

An easy distraction.
This weekend officials on Kenya’s coast warned of increasing crocodile attacks on local residents. Nonsense.

If the reports of increased lion and crocodile attacks in Kenya are true, why are they not true in neighboring Uganda and Tanzania? Do those animals not have visas?

Like the incorrectly reported increase in lion attacks made last week in the Mara, the increasing media emphasis in Kenya on wild animal attacks can be explained for two reasons: (1) the boundaries between people and wild animals are growing smaller and more stressful, and (2) because the story makes good politics.

It reminds me very much of the regular conservative attacks on vermin at home, particularly wolves. Generally when the rains are good and the stock is healthy we hear very little about wolf attacks. But the moment there’s a drought or anthrax, wolves start eating babies.

“The marauding reptiles of River Tana are killing villagers, particularly women,“ reported Mark Agutu, a reporter for Kenya’s Daily Nation, this weekend.

The Tana River just came out of an extended drought, and there are now floods and mudslides, and farmers have suffered terribly. An important, somewhat contentious, national referendum is occurring in a few months. Muslim and Christians are in the throes of trying to deal with being near an Al-Qaeda Somalia not far from them.

There’s a lot to bother a farmer on Tana River, and one of the easiest ways to distract him from demanding action from his social and political leaders, is to sound the crocodile attack alarm.

This hysteria is not good for Kenya. Most importantly, elephant attacks are on the increase, and they are often much more destructive than lions or crocodiles, and addressing the issue won’t be easy. Expanding this fact to all predators isn’t simply specious but could really delay the need to figure out what to do with elephants.

East Africa’s wild animals are the most numerous and dramatic on earth, and there’s no question that modern society there has a serious problem figuring out what to do with the conflict caused when the wilderness meets the city.

But brazen suggestions that the animals have risen like vampires against peace-loving villagers is not going to get us anywhere.