Pretoria News

Croc kills man as fun ends in tragedy

Victim was retrieving golf balls from lake in Kruger park

- GOITSEMANG TLHABYE

HAT started out as harmless fun among friends to collect golf balls from Lake Panic in the Kruger National Park ended in tragedy as one of the men was attacked and killed by a crocodile on Wednesday evening.

Kruger Park regional ranger, Don English, said he received a call at about 10pm that a man had been grabbed by a crocodile at the Lake Panic Dam near the golf course.

Rangers were alerted and after a two-hour search, the animal was found and put down. Jacques van der Sandt’s body was retrieved without mutilation, but with teeth marks at the back and the front. No body parts were torn off. Skukuza SAPS spokesman Warrant Officer Oubaas Coetzer said Van der Sandt, 29, was attacked as he and friends held a competitio­n to see who could fetch the highest number of golf balls from those that had gone astray and landed in the lake.

“They went into the waist-deep water and were collecting golf balls. On his way out Van der Sandt was grabbed by the crocodile,” he said.

Coetzer said it was strange that Van der Sandt was in the lake when it was a known fact that there were crocodiles there, especially because he (Van der Sandt) had grown up in the park. The young man’s parents, Schalk and Lorretha van der Sandt,

Whave been with the park since 1992.

“One would have thought because he grew up in the park he would know of the risks, but I suppose he must have under-estimated the possible danger,” said Coetzer.

The post-mortem had been completed, but the investigat­ion was still under way.

SANParks spokesman Ike Phaahla said there were plenty of signs around the area warning visitors to proceed with caution and to avoid getting into the water at all costs. “Despite there being clear and visible signs, people sometimes stop their cars when spotting game or even getting out to entice the animals out of the bushes with food.”

Phaahla said the area was usually closed off at 9pm, but people were allowed to finish their drinks.

Dr Nico de Bruyn, researcher at the mammal research institute of the University of Pretoria’s zoology and entomology department, said crocodiles were known to be opportunis­tic predators and would likely kill what is available to them especially after the winter season.

De Bruyn said Van der Sandt’s body was found intact because crocodiles where unable to chew their prey. They usually waited for the body to start decomposin­g before they devoured it. “The crocodile was probably looking for a log or tree to place the body and rangers killed it in the hope that the young man was still alive,” he said.

Wildlife ecologist specialisi­ng in crocodiles for 23 years, Dr Alison Leslie of the department of conservati­on ecology at Stellenbos­ch University, said the chances for an attack were much higher in summer as reptiles were more active in hot weather conditions. “There is no such thing as a man-eating crocodile. These creatures don’t have the capacity to seek specific prey. Crocodiles have excellent vision at night and the young men in the water probably caused a lot of vibrations which the animal mistook for a struggling animal,” he added.

SANparks disease ecologist Dr Danny Govender said: “These animals have just come out of hibernatio­n. The animal was doing what comes naturally. Unfortunat­ely a life was lost.”

 ??  ?? Jacques van der Sandt
Jacques van der Sandt

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