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Wednesday, 5 January, 2000, 19:53 GMT
Protected crocodiles eat Malawians

Crocodile Crocodile culling is restricted by the CITES treaty


By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre

Crocodiles are killing at least two people every day in the Lower Shire Valley in southern Malawi, according to a survey carried out by a professional hunter.

The high death rate has been linked to Malawi's signing of the International Convention on Endangered Species (CITES), which limits the culling of crocodiles, among other animals.

Khaled Hassen, who conducted the survey, said it was high time the government seriously considered culling the growing number of crocodiles in the area.

He said the reported attacks could be just the tip of the iceberg.

"People in the area no longer report every death to police or the District Commissioner because these attacks are happening every day," he said.

Population boom

Mr Hassen said ever since Malawi signed the Cites treaty, the crocodile population has been booming at an uncontrollable rate.

He said before Malawi joined Cites it used to kill about 800 crocodiles annually, but the Cites treaty only allows the culling of only 200 crocodiles per year.

He said this had caused a dramatic increase in the crocodile population, putting pressure on their food resources.

He said this made the hungry crocodiles prey on livestock and people.

He said the current population of crocodiles in Malawi could be controlled if at least 500 crocodiles were killed annually.

Mr Hassen has been in the crocodile business since 1963 and has recorded killing at least 17,000 crocodiles in Malawi since then.

He said he mainly exports crocodile skins to fashion houses in France.

Minister suspects witchcraft

The issue of crocodiles in Lower Shire is so serious that parliament has become involved.

George Ntafu, the neurosurgeon-turned wildlife minister, answering a question from an MP from the area on what government was doing to control the crocodile problem, said his ministry suspected witchcraft in the prolification of crocodile deaths.

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See also:
05 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Crocodile influx threatens Australia
15 Jun 99 |  Americas
Rare crocodile bites back

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