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'Nelson,' Fearsome Crocodile, R.I.P; 80-yr-old Grew to Over 18 Feet

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KAZUNGULA, Botswana -- With his massive jaws and jagged teeth, Nelson was the most fearsome predator that ever lived in the ponds of the Chobe Crocodile Farm.

Even his lifeless and already decomposing body underscores that he was once a huge reptile that fathered most of the crocodiles in the farm.

Chobe Crocodile Farm is located in Kazungula in the Chobe Sub-District, near the confluence of the Chobe and Zambezi rivers and it has over 1 000 of these reptiles.

The farm owner, Susan Slogrove, is not even sure about how old Nelson was but estimates that the big reptile was more than 80 years old at the time of his death in July this year.

Measuring more than 5.5 metres without his tail that he lost at a young age, Nelson made the farm famous for he was the oldest and largest crocodile in Chobe, says Slogrove.

She says Nelson was the centre of attraction at the farm with tourists coming from neighbouring countries just to witness this massive crocodile, which responded to instructions and tricks the owner had taught him.

During feeding time Nelson would be told to open and the crocodile would do just that, according to Slogrove.

Full of emotion, she says When we told it to open its mouth a little bit wider during feeding time it used to do a exactly that.

She says Nelson died because of old age, noting that during his last days the crocodile was no longer eating and his situation deteriorated because he had lost his sight. This big giant was so old that he had only one tooth left and as a result was being fed soft meal.

Slogrove has decided not to bury or cremate Nelsons body but to let it decompose so that the remaining skeleton can be displayed either at the farm or the National Museum where it can be of educational value.

This will also help answer the question of exactly how old Nelson was and probably how long a crocodile can live, she says. Slogrove acknowledges the difficulty of determining the age of crocodiles.

The question of age is difficult to answer precisely. Like the question of size of the crocs, it suffers from exaggeration.

She, however, says there are few clues to tell the age of these venerable reptiles, noting that the most common method is to measure lamellar growth rings in the bones and teeth.

She explains that each ring corresponds to a change in the growth rate, which typically occurs once a year between the seasons.

She however dismissed the myth that a crocodiles brain and liver are poisonous. Any meat can be poisonous if not fresh, argues Slogrove. BOPA


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