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Woman killed by croc was fishing for food

By Mhlaba Memela | 2012-04-04 09:26:08.0

HUNGER for food has always driven Thandekile Madela to fish in the dangerous St Lucia waters.

Yesterday she paid the ultimate price when a crocodile grabbed and killed her in front of her two children.

Madela is one of the women in the poor area that often ignore crocodile warnings on the Umfolozi Estuary mouthfor overnight fishing to ensure that their families have something to eat.

For years Madela travelled over 30km once a week from KwaMsane to the estuary for overnight camp fishing.

However, yesterday an aggressive reptile ended Madela's life when it attacked her when she was retrieving her fish at the water's edge at about 6.30am.

Her two little boys who had accompanied her for fishing tried in vain to rescue her from the jaws of the reptile.

Her distressed husband Lucky said his wife loved fishing.

"I taught her how to fish and she developed a passion. She has been fishing for more than 20 years and never encountered any attack," he sobbed.

Lucky said it appeared that the fish his wife had caught was followed by a reptile.

"A big fish was stuck on the reed beds. And my wife tried to pull it with her hands then the reptile struck and pulled her under the water. My boys tried to save their mother by pushing a fishing-rod in the crocodile's mouth."

The boys screamed for help and a boat launch assistant on the beach who heard their cries immediately alerted park staff who were in the vicinity.

The search was instituted by foot and boat, involving around 20 staff members but the crocodile repeatedly disappeared from view as the boat approached, hiding itself in reed beds.

iSimangaliso Authority chief executive Andrew Zaloumis, who assisted at the scene, said the searchers continued to pursue the crocodile on sighting until it eventually released the body and disappeared more than an hour later.

He also urged holiday makers and locals to remember that the St Lucia Estuary forms part of the Wetland Park and has one of the highest concentrations of hippos and crocodiles in Southern Africa.

Zaloumis said crocodiles are opportunistic predators that generally target fish but will readily take animals or people near the water's edge. They tend to be more active in summer.

Crocodiles are listed as a threatened species and St Lucia has one of the most significant populations on the continent.