Crocodile Die-Off in Kruger National Park

Crocodiles have been dying in large numbers on the Olifants River in Kruger National Park, the crown jewel of the South African Parks System.  The article rather casually states that the die-off is attributable to environmental pollutants:

There is growing consensus that the croc die-off is a result of a confluence of low level toxins, which has lead to endocrinal [sic] abnormalities (that is, hormonal changes) in croc tissues.

As the moderator for the promedmail wrote, however, it would be nice to have some specific details explaining why this consensus is apparently growing:

The article does not specify chemicals, pesticides, or heavy metals, or their amounts, yet the article boldly states, "Long term exposure to these and other toxins may well be conspiring towards the crippling condition suffered by Olifants River crocodiles." So apparently, the specifics of the chemicals, pesticides and/or heavy metals are known. It would be much more beneficial to publish what has been found and the levels of those alleged toxins, then those doing research or having experience in the area would be able to suggest a possible solution.

It certainly seems possible, particularly given the diversion of water from the Olifants River and from new mining operations in Mozambique, but it would still be nice to have some more details. One of the striking features of the dead crocs is the fact that they have hardened yellow fat deposits in their tails. The article suggests that cause of death is pansteatitis, a disease caused by excessive consumption of unstabilized polyunsaturated fatty acids (often found in rotting fish).  There is no evidence of correspondingly large fish die-off, which could complete the causal story.  How the environmental contamination story fits in with pansteatitis seems an important missing link in understanding this problem.

Cattle that eat threadleaf groundsel can die of a disease that induces hard yellow liver, providing more suggestive evidence that an environmental poison might be responsible for the croc die-off.  Maybe...? 

This is a disturbing story, the resolution of which I will follow closely.

5 thoughts on “Crocodile Die-Off in Kruger National Park”

  1. In Kenya, we also have the same problem in our parks; maybe we ourselves are the cause of pollution after all, we need to change our value systems, beliefs and more over as environmentalists make the rural communities aware of what environmental ethics is all about!

  2. I was in the Kruger national park this past weekend and we saw a completely yellow crocodile. Is this caused from the same thing that I have read in articles?

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