Talk about an unappetising starter – this young crocodile had to eat a mouthful of elephant dung before he could sink his teeth into a delicious beetle.Chobe 0513 9060

Duncan Blackburn, 63, managed to snap these shots of a hungry croc in Chobe National Park in Botswana.

Crocodiles in the area deliberately feed on elephant dung found on riverbanks in hope of catching a tasty bird or insect which is feeding on the same muck.

Mr Blackburn said: “I was with another photographer on the riverbank, hoping to photograph baboons which had come down to the water to drink, when we noticed an adult crocodile, obviously a mother, shepherding two young crocs to the shallows.

Chobe 0513 9049“We did not see the dung beetles hard at work, but the mother croc obviously had.

“We anchored our boat close by to watch the hunting lesson. After a few attempts spanning 45 minutes this little guy managed to lunge at, and grab a mouthful of elephant dung, which luckily included a beetle.”

Mr Blackburn, of Johannesburg, South Africa, said this was an example of the local crocodiles’ unusual practice of feeding on elephant dung in the hope of picking up something tastier.

He said: “The river bank is littered with elephant dung. Northern Botswana, and particularly the Chobe National Park area, has a large and growing elephant population.Chobe 0513 9073

“The sheer amount of elephant dung along the river bank often spoils photo opportunities but creates a paradise for dung beetles.

“The beetles also attract many insect-eating birds, hence the crocs’ practice of hunting the banks for these birds.

“On the Chobe river the adult crocodiles often hunt the river banks and shallows for wading birds and insects. I often wonder why they do this, as the river is teeming with fish. This is obviously a skill that takes some practice.”

Chobe 0513 9079Mr Blackburn, a chemical engineer, captured the images in May 2013 by travelling down the Chobe river on a boat.

He said: “The waterside view of the wildlife in and around the river is quite unique, affording lots of opportunity for great photos.”

Ben Hoare, features editor for BBC Wildlife Magazine, said the practice of eating dung is not uncommon in the animal kingdom.

He said: “The eating of faeces, or coprophilia, is quite common in the animal kingdom – just ask any dog owner.

“Plant-eaters such as rabbits and rodents frequently eat their own droppings, because they can extract extra nutrition by swallowing and digesting the food a second time.

“Gorillas, which are vegetarians, also eat their own dung. Dogs probably do it because there are valuable minerals, vitamins and protein in faeces, and they will happily eat their own faeces as well as that of cats and other mammals.”

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