Very prolific along most of Zambia’s rivers, lakes and dams, the crocodile is the only reptile that shows any maternal instinct. In September, when the water is low, the female will dig a hole and deposit between 45 and 90 eggs, perfectly timed to hatch before the river rises and floods the nest site 3 months later. She will guard the nest site against predators (monitor lizard, honey badger and even hyaena). After three months the young emit a small squeaking sound from the eggs. She then removes the topsoil which they would be unable to penetrate without her help.
The unborn young have a bony tip on their snouts, to help them cut through the tough shell, which soon after birth is absorbed and disappears. As they break through the shell she collects them in her mouth and carries them to water. Even though she continues to care for them for several weeks after hatching, only one percent are likely to reach maturity. Small crocs feed on insects and other invertebrates, medium crocs on fish, mostly barbel (catfish) and only the larger ones take mammals coming down to the rivers to drink, often as big as a buffalo. They will readily attack a person in the water and many local fishermen have fallen prey to their jaws. The slender snouted crocodile Crocodilus cataphractus, occurs sparsely in the Luapula / Bangweulu area.
Common around rivers and lagoons, these enormous lizards can grow up to a length of almost two meters. They are sometimes spotted on overhanging or partly submerged trees along riverbanks. They live in holes in the ground and forage on crabs and insects, but often raid birds nests and crocodile nests.