Bites

Crocodile bites and traditional beliefs in Korogwe District, Tanzania

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.309.6970.1691 (Published 24 December 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:1691
  1. Richard Scott, joint medical superintendenta,
  2. Heather Scott, joint medical superintendenta
  1. a St Raphael's Hospital, PO Box 35, Korogwe, Tanga, Tanzania
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Scott.

    Abstract

    Objectives: To investigate why fatal crocodile bites are increasing in a Tanzanian district and the importance of traditional beliefs and superstitions in determining the residents' response to the crocodiles.

    Design: Information about beliefs was obtained by interview of Korogwe residents. Human and crocodile fatality statistics were obtained from the Korogwe Department of Natural Resources.

    Setting: Villages within Korogwe District. Subjects—Population of Korogwe District.

    Results: Crocodiles have been responsible for 51 deaths in the 52 months from January 1990 to April 1994. Of these, 18 deaths occurred in the first four months of 1994.

    Conclusions: Local beliefs and superstitions about crocodiles include those about the taming of animals, with implications concerning the choice of victim and the penalties that may ensue if a crocodile is killed. The recent rise in human fatalities is thought to relate to increasing river pollution reducing the fish supply, together with a change in social mores at the riverside which has increased the crocodiles' displeasure. A reliable pumped water supply would reduce the need to draw water and bathe in the river, and eradication of superstition would empower the villagers in the fight against a common enemy.

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