Tana River residents of Laini village in Galole constituency are a worried lot as crocodiles targets humans with devastating success.
Here, the reptiles are swimming closer home, wreaking havoc and leaving trails of death.
Already, nine people have so far suffered crocodile attacks in the last three months and four have reportedly died.
While three of the attacks occurred when the victims went to fetch water at the river, the other six took place in their homes and on village footpaths.
Zubaki location Chief Victoria Jillo said the number of crocodiles have increased and they are no longer waiting for their prey in the river.
“We have had cases of the crocodiles hunting down animals in the farms, and even children missing mysteriously while grazing only for their bodies to be found half-eaten by the riverbanks,” she said.
The attacks have become rampant, with the flooding posing a huge risk.
Ramadhan Said, an emergency worker, said rescue efforts were expensive as families and well-wishers have to raise money for fuel.
Karhayu Mohammed has been left with seven children to raise alone after his wife was recently gobbled up by a hungry crocodile.
“I never wanted her to go by the riverside, especially when it started to rain. I always felt that danger was lurking by the river,” he said.
On that fateful day, Mohammed had made several trips to the river with his wife to fetch water. He did not allow her to get close. She always waited as he fetched the water for her to carry home.
Later, he left for the farm as per his daily routine. However, at midday, his wife had exhausted all the water and needed some for cooking.
“She took to the river with our baby on her back and a 10-litre jerry can, which she fetched successfully, without noticing the crocodile that had left the water a few minutes before,” he said.
As she was about to leave, a crocodile pounced and dragged her into the water. Amid the scuffle, she untied the baby from her back, leaving her crying by the riverbank as the beast overpowered her.
“We heard someone scream after a splash in the water. She was calling for help but by the time we got there, the crocodile had drowned her. We found her baby crying by the riverbank,” recounted Ali Salim, a resident.
Villagers gathered at the scene to try to rescue her, while others went to look for her husband.
“They told me that my wife had been mauled, and drowned by a crocodile,” said Mohammed. “We searched for almost 24 hours in vain. On the second day, the crocodile released the body. We found it by the banks of the river.”
Another beast clambered up the bank and crawled into the village.
Joseph Maro, who was having a siesta under a tree, thought he was going to die when his leg was trapped in the jaws of the predator.
The beast had made itself a nest close by where it had covered several eggs.
Maro was deep into the siesta when it crept, bit his leg, and tried to drag him to the bush.
“It was a big female crocodile. I took a stone and hit it on the head as I pulled my leg from its jaws. It let go but was charging back when other people joined me in the fight,” he recounted.
The Good Samaritans rushed him to a dispensary and later to the Hola Referral Hospital for further treatment.
After several interventions, he was moved to Malindi Sub-County Hospital where he has been recuperating.
“It has never been easy. We have to beg for a boat from the county and in fortunate cases, the Kenya Red Cross helps,” he said.
Tana River senior warden, Agustine Ajuoga, warned that during flooding, the crocodiles are likely to become more vicious and aggressive.
“When they are mating and laying eggs, they become very hungry and can’t wait in the water for food. They will eventually go hunting hence locals must avoid the river at all costs,” he said.
One male crocodile mates with 10 females in a single day, which lays up to 30 eggs, hence the aggression because of hunger.
The warden also admitted that the population of crocodiles at the Tana needs to be reduced.
“We are in discussions to carry out the census in the River Tana and work out on how to regulate the population of the crocodiles in the river for the safety of locals,” he said.