The Sacred Crocodiles of Bazoule

Jun 22, 2018 0 comments

Bazoule, in Burkina Faso, is a sprawling lakeside village around 30 kilometers from the capital Ouagadougou, with a very unique tradition—for many generations residents of this village have been living in harmony with more than a hundred ferocious crocodiles that live in the village pond, the same pond where children swim and bath and the womenfolk fetch water from.

Bazoule’s crocodiles are a distant relative to the larger and more aggressive Nile crocodile. They are a species of their own—Crocodylus suchus—also known as the West African crocodile or desert crocodiles because they are mostly found in forested regions and open habitats. These crocodiles, or rather their ancestors, have adapted to the changing environment in northern Africa, from lush savannah and grasslands 10,000 years ago to the hot and arid Sahara that it is now.


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Unlike the Nile crocodile, that typically prefers large seasonal rivers, the West African crocodile generally prefers lagoons and wetlands in forested regions. Some of these wetlands, called a guelta, forms only during rains or when underground springs collect in a depression. When the water evaporates, the crocodiles pass the summer in a kind of torpor. They don't eat and they keep movement down to a minimum.

West African crocodiles are also less aggressive than the Nile crocodile and usually does not attack humans. Like Bazoule, many communities throughout West Africa have lived in close proximity to West African crocodiles and instead of fearing them, these people revere them and protect them from harm. Bazoule’s people believe that the crocodiles came from the sky along with the rains, and if the crocodiles disappear the water will disappear too.

Sacred crocodiles are also found in the town of Sabou in central western Burkina Faso. Just over the border from Burkina Faso in Ghana, there is a town called Paga, that hosts their own collection of crocodiles that live side by side with humans. Both at Bazoule and at Paga, there are guides who will eagerly lure the crocodiles out of water with live chicken as bait, so that tourists can pat them and take pictures with them.


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Photo credit: Marco Schmidt/Wikimedia


Photo credit: escalepade/Flickr


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