Crocodiles are dangerous animals. Some say they are deadlier than sharks. Just stare into the jaws of a crocodile and that might be the last thing you see. Its powerful jaws can snap human bones like twigs.
Yet, one man on the shores of Lake Baringo has taken it upon himself to feed the reptiles. He has been doing this for 15 years now, and began when he was just 10. Unbelievable, isn’t it? We thought so too when we first heard the story of Moses Emuria and what has become his biggest hobby; feeding crocodiles.
“My first encounter was in 2003. I had gone fishing. One crocodile was sleeping by the shores of the lake. I think I woke it up with my footsteps. I offered it fish. It ate and did not attack me. It was friendly and I was amazed,” says Emuria.
“The following day, I found the crocodile at the same spot. I gave it fish again and still, it did not attack me. It became a habit. Today, I feed up to five crocodiles every day and non has ever attacked me,” says the Standard Three school dropout.
Emuria’s love for crocodiles at Kampi ya Samaki Beach has since attracted many people, curious to know how he does what he does.
Residents are amazed by how Emuria has managed to tame the reptiles, yet they themselves live in fear of being attacked. Those who spoke to The Standard recalled how they have lost several animals to the reptiles and are always on the lookout to evade attacks.
In case the crocodiles are not on the shore by the time he brings them food, all Emuria does is to tap the water. Immediately, you see the crocodiles rushing towards him. As scary as it is, Emuria does not take off.
“After the first encounter with a crocodile, which ended well, I decided to feed them. I feed at least five crocodiles a day and it has been a fulfilling journey,” says Emuria.
He believes the first crocodile never attacked him because he constantly fed it. “I think this is why they are attracted to me. They are drawn to me by the smell of fish.”
Emuria says he was fearful the day more crocodiles came out. “I thought they would attack me but to my relief, they went away peacefully after I gave them fish,” Emuria recalls.
“I collect more fish and their intestines from fishermen and use them to feed the animals. I learnt how to call them out after a lot of observation,” he avers.
Emuria has even gone further to give the animals names to differentiate them. He has given the name Kongo to the oldest crocodile. He has named two younger crocodiles after his two children.
“I decided to name them because I felt they had become a part of my family. The names make it easy for me to identify them,” Emuria declares.
“I named them Sylia and Eriko. Each crocodile I feed has a name.”
He says he names them as per their behaviour. Emuria has named one of the crocodiles Kigeugeu, due to its unpredictable nature. This was after it tried to bite him as he fed them.
“I can identify them from a distance just by looking at them. Kongo’s tail is cut after it hit it against a tree.”
“I have taught many people how to deal with them. I also know when to avoid them.”
Emuria played a key role when the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Forestry Service (KFS) needed to transfer some crocodiles to a museum in Kitale.
Residents say Emuria’s interaction with the reptiles has reduced crocodile attacks, both on humans and livestock.
“Everyone knows Emuria because of feeding the dreaded animals. He has also been key in recovering bodies whenever someone drowns, especially because he knows how to deal with the crocodiles,” a resident, Mary Bii, says.
She says crocodile attacks have drastically gone down over the past five years.
“We believe crocodiles are not attacking our livestock as they did before because he feeds them,” says Bii.
Simon Ochieng’, a fish trader, says Emuria’s skills to ‘tame’ crocodiles have attracted tourists to the area and boosted the economy.
“When the tourists come to see crocodiles and how he handles them, we get more customers to buy fish and the artefacts we make,” says Ochieng’.
Emuria urged the authorities to offer him more training on how to handle crocodiles.
“I have never been trained. I feel that I can do a better job with some training,” he says.
Local tourists pay Sh500 per person while their international counterparts part with Sh1,500 before Emuria calls the reptiles out. He makes up to Sh5,000 a day.
County KWS senior warden Dickson Too has promised to ensure Emuria’s talent is nurtured. “We know how risky it can be especially without training. We understand how such talent can be of help to us,” adds Too.