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Navigating the crocodile-infested lakes of Ngoma and Bugesera

Navigating the crocodile-infested lakes of Ngoma and Bugesera

During my recent Ngoma - Bugesera adventure ride, I discovered a cluster of lakes. I love water bodies but indulging in water sports in this area was out of the question. There are things you can’t do while navigating the marshland known for its huge collection of crocodiles and hippopotami. Despite the obvious danger posed by these predators, some members of the local communities carry out fishing in the red zones — in most cases, defying the directives put in place by the authorities.

In April 2012, a fisherman went to work hoping to catch fish. He caught a crocodile instead. The unexpected catch led to the outbreak of a fierce battle between the crocodile and the said fisherman. A battalion of fellow fishermen backed him up. At the end of the day, the crocodile succumbed to severe axe and machete wounds.

The four-meter long reptile weighed about 600 kilograms. His skull was broken and the scales were badly scratched. In addition, his forelimb and part of his tail were missing. The fishermen claimed responsibility for the deformation of the skull but denied any involvement in the disappearance of the body parts.

No one was in trouble. The murder was ruled self-defense. Legally, the fishermen were off the hook. That brings us to the question: what happened to the crocodile’s limb and tail? According to Habimana Innocent, a resident of Gashora Sector found in Bugesera District, damage on a crocodile’s body is common because of the competitive nature of the animal kingdom. "Survival for the fittest is the norm out there. Sometimes, even the fittest end up broken." He told me.

Crocodiles and other animals fight brutal wars throughout their lives. As a result, they suffer terrible wounds and surrender parts of their own bodies. Yes, the fishermen mentioned above had nothing to do with the chopped off limb and tail. Before the crocodile lost his final battle, he had survived many costly fights. Fights that left him physically impaired.

During his lifetime, this crocodile lost organs while doing what he had to do to survive. His final battle brought forth additional losses — the day he was entangled in a fisherman’s net. Even after death, the poor crocodile kept losing lifeless parts. The thorough cleaning process conducted before the transformation of the body into an exhibition item led to the displacement of the skull and several smaller bones. How do you lose a skull while cleaning the body? Someone owes us an explanation.

The Institute of National Museums of Rwanda reconstructed the skeleton and replaced missing body parts in a successful bid to recreate the appearance of the fallen crocodile. The missing parts were obtained from Lake Birira in Ngoma District where another bloody encounter between fishermen and a huge crocodile led to the loss of the latter’s life.

For a long time, the crocodile from Lake Rumira had been accused of turning fishermen into supper. Evidence was found during the process of preserving his body. One victim’s shoe was found in his belly and another victim’s attire was found therein.

The man eater’s body is now displayed in the Museum of Environment located in Karongi District. After undergoing a body-preserving process known as taxidermy, this scary creature looks alive and immortal. Have you ever entered a building and bump into a crocodile? It happened to me.

My recent expedition around the Ngoma - Bugesera lakes was memorable. The views of these attractions are breathtaking. I had an exotic dining experience on the lakeside terrace of one of those serene resorts built in the area. I am planning another escape to these hidden gems but I will avoid an encounter with the bona fide inhabitants of these water bodies. Some boats are considered safe but I would rather kick back, relax and enjoy the view from the terrace.

The author is visiting all 30 districts of Rwanda. His tour of Bugesera is sponsored by Ikaze Rwanda Tours & Travel, The Click Creations, Elimo Real Estate Ltd and Exposure.


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