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Kenya: A fight with a crocodile is no easy task!

Posted by African Press International on August 20, 2008

Man who fought crocodile and survived

Published on 19/08/2008

By Ngumbao Kithi

Every year, crocodiles prey on many people in Tana River.

The few who escape from the jaws of the reptiles are considered lucky.

Mr Hillary Amuma has lived to tell his story. He vividly remembers how a crocodile grabbed him from the edge of the river.

A section of the crocodile-infested Tana River in Hola.


After a half an hours fight with the beast, he won the battle but sustained serious injuries. He gathered himself and limped home a victorious man.

Amuma had a deep cut on his left thigh and cuts on his left arm, but he bore them gallantly. When he looked at the battle scene, he saw the reptile retreat into the waters, probably angry for losing a fight that could have claimed the life of a young man.

This was the ordeal of 26-year-old Amuma, who cheated death four years ago.


Amuma says he got away with his life because he remembered the traditional method he was taught long ago how to fight a crocodile.

The method calls for courage, quick decision and precision or else you become food for the reptile.

The incident is fresh in his mind as though it took place yesterday.

It all started when Amuma went home one afternoon and found his wife had nothing to cook for lunch.

“I was hungry and had no penny. I had to go out to fetch something for our,” he said.

Dressed in a black pair of shorts and bare-chested, Amuma fetched his fishing rod and walked to an irrigation canal off the Tana, a kilometer away, to catch fish.

Fish in Tana River has made life easy for the Pokomo people. It is their staple food.

“I threw my hook into the river and caught one fish, went ahead and got a second and a third. When I tried to get the fourth, my left was bitten and I felt being pulled down. I never realised what was happening,” he said.

Something had bitten his thigh, he knew, and when he tried to hit it with his left hand, the grip on the leg did not budge. It soon dawned on him that he was in the jaws of a crocodile.

Fast action

The short and lean man, with a permanent frown on his face, had to think fast to save himself.

“I turned to face the animal that had gripped my thigh tight, ready to make mince meat of me. I looked back at the village, down the riverbank, and there was no one to help. I realised I was going to die, unless I did something very fast,” he says.

Women draw water as children bathe in the crocodile-infested river.

With that realisation, came a flash of survival tactics he was taught by his grandfather. He threw away his fishing gear to struggle to live or die.

By then, the crocodile was pulling him deep into the river as his left hand bled profusely from bites sustained in the struggle.

With the index and middle fingers of his right hand, Amuma jabbed into the crocodiles eyes and jumped back at the first sign that the reptiles jaws were slackening.

But when he tried to run away, it leapt over him, jaws wide open. Again, it came in direct contact with the fingers aimed at both its eyes.

“That is how I escaped. The Pokomo say a crocodile fears being touched in the eyes and once that is done, it becomes immobile and lets go,” says Amuma.

Amumas story, to any other person who is not a Pokomo, sounds unbelievable.

He says the eyes of the crocodile are its most sensitive part and it recoils when hit.

Amuma says only those who understand the survival tactics taught to the Pokomo can escape the iron grip of the beast.

“A real Pokomo man cannot be scared by a crocodile, I just aimed my fingers at its eyes and the reptile became immobile,” he said.

According to him, this explains why Pokomo people are said to live alongside crocodiles without fear.

“There is a myth that a Pokomo fisherman can get on top of a crocodile and be ferried across Tana River,”he adds with a ting of pride in his voice.

Bleeding profusely, he recalls how he took a step back and watched the hungry reptile swim back into the river.

Mr Amuma, who lives in Amuma village, was treated at the nearby Wema Dispensary and discharged.

He says he hopes to be compensated by the Kenya Wildlife Service.




One Response to “Kenya: A fight with a crocodile is no easy task!”

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