The remote floodplains of Katavi National Park in the far west corner of Tanzania teem with incredible numbers of wildlife. A panoramic view of the big floodplains show massive herds of elephant, buffalo and zebra. All the animals in the park depend on the Katuma River and its flood plains for their survival.
During the dry season, pools of mud are the only visible evidence a river once flowed through these dust-filled riverbeds. In the quickly disappearing mud pools, catfish, hippo’s and crocodiles compete for the last space to escape the heat of the equator sun.
Around these pools crocodiles aggressively guard their nests; waiting for the water to return. The young crocodiles, once hatched, need water to survive the first few months.
After the young hatch and emerge from the soil, the crocodile mothers will take their young into their mouths and carry them to the water. The monstrous beak, perfected by millions of years of evolution to kill, serves as a gentle cradle; but even the guarded eggs are not safe. Monitor lizards frequently raid crocodile nests and eat the eggs, leaving the crocodiles without offspring.
Crocodiles share their shrinking lagoons with hundreds of hippos. As the dry season advances, hippos and crocodiles fight for their space. Some of the hippos, especially the young, die because of the drought, or are taken off guard by hungry predators like the crocodile, lion and leopard. Hippo mothers will fight forcefully to protect their young, and sometimes, with deadly consequences.
Near the beginning of the rains, the mud pools dry out almost completely. The crocodiles of Katavi use their beaks to dig holes in the side of the riverbanks in search of moisture. They need protection against overheating and dehydration so they use the caves to aestivate from the hot African sun. Up to one-hundred crocs cramp together, waiting for the rains to return.
The other animals also reach desperation. Antelopes and primates are forced to leave the cover of the Katavi Woodlands to quench their thirst. Lions loose their inhibitions and hunt throughout the day; feeding on everything they can get their claws on. The last remaining mudpools, which are fed by tiny springs, are over crowded with hippos where tempers are overheating….. Rains are needed soon in Katavi.