Crocodile Eats Golfer - Analysis
Zoologist and crocodile expert Adam "He Oughta Know" Britton tells us the email tale is fake but the photo is real. According to Britton, the incident captured on film couldn't have happened in Florida.
How does he know? Simple. The particular species of crocodile in the image, Crocodylus porosus, is native to Indonesia. It's not found in Florida.
Plus, says Britton, there has never been a crocodile-caused fatality in Florida (though alligator attacks are a different story).
The photograph was taken in Kalimantan (Borneo) in 1997. Nothing else is known about it. The email story was attached anonymously in July 1998 and the two have circulated together ever since.
For a clue as to how such a tasteless joke might have come about, look no further than the fact that alligators are not only plentiful in Florida, but are frequently sighted on golf courses. Tourists have even been bitten on occasion. Our email author was evidently aware of this, but made the mistake of confusing alligators with their cousins, the crocodiles -- of which there are only a few hundred left in Florida and none at all north of the Everglades.
Even so, the story rings true for enough many readers that a West Palm Beach hotel and golf course called the Breakers, whose name is mentioned in one popular version of the email, complains of receiving a steady stream of credulous phone calls from the day the story first appeared. "I compare this prank to tabloid journalism," a spokesperson for the resort complained to reporters. "When you're at the top of the heap, someone wants to knock you down."
The reputation of the endangered American crocodile hasn't exactly benefited from the hoax, either.
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Sources and further reading:
- "70-Year-Old Man Killed by 8-Foot Gator." WPBF-TV, 15 May 2001.
- "The Croc is a Croc." ABC News, 1998.
- Britton, Adam. "Crocodile Eats Golfer?" Crocodilians. Florida Museum of Natural History.
- "Crocodile Fears." Miami New Times, 17 June 1999.
- "Reptile Tale a Real Croc!" Palm Beach Daily News, 2001.
Last updated: 09/30/11