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Konkola Golf Club

As the sweet scent of Natal mahogany mingles with smoke from distant brushfires, Sihole plucks a three- wood from his bag and hands it to Musopelo. "Land a ball in the middle of the pond," Sihole says, "and I'll give you a million kwacha."

Musopelo grins broadly. "If I do," he says, "and you swim out to get it, you can have the million back."

The crocs at Konkola appear to be silvery rocks on the bank until they glide into the water. The caddies call the largest Inywena. That's "big croc" in Bemba, the lingua franca of the Copperbelt. Inywena appears to be about thirteen feet from tail to snout. He would have been even longer, but something chewed a foot or two off his tail. It may have been Inywena.

Crocodiles are given to nibbling on their tails, especially when hungry. But then crocs eat practically anything. The contents of the stomach of a crocodile shot in Botswana's Okavanso Swamp in 1968 included the remains of a zebra, a donkey, two goats and the still-clothed torso of a woman who had been missing seventeen days. Adult crocs have no real natural enemies except humans, possibly because they're meaner.

Crocodiles used to polish off as many as twenty thousand Africans a year. They still average about one a week in Zambia. A single croc is said to have killed four hundred people--a croc hardly matters in Africa until it has eaten a half dozen or so. Still, despite its appetite for humans, the crocodile's chief diet at Konkola is fish and the occasional puppy.

After Inywena sinks into the drink, I slink off and order a beer, with caterpillars on the side. After a few brews, the grubs seem almost palatable. I ask barman Laswell Luhana, who has worked at Konkola since 1963, how many golfers the club has lost to crocs. "They haven't taken anyone," he reports, "though they've damaged a few." Four caddies, two thieves.

"One thief was fishing, with the police looking for him," Luhana says, "but the croc caught him." The thief made off with copper; the croc, a leg.

A few years ago, a golfer offered his caddie the equivalent of eight cents to comb a pond for an errant shot. As the caddie poked around in the murky, green water, a submerged croc chomped on his backside. Fortunately he escaped with only minor lacerations. "You forget about the crocodiles," says Nkandu, the pro at Ndola. "If you try to be a bit courageous, definitely, they come for you."


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