Sacred Crocodiles in Bazoule, Burkina: Where Children Play Without Fear

Bazoule, situated in Burkina Faso, is a picturesque lakeside village, located approximately 30 kilometers from the capital, Ouagadougou. What makes this village truly unique is its longstanding tradition of coexisting harmoniously with more than a hundred formidable crocodiles that reside in the village pond. Remarkably, this pond is also where children play and swim, and where women fetch water.

The crocodiles in Bazoule are a distinct species known as Crocodylus suchus, often referred to as the West African crocodile or desert crocodile. These crocodiles have adapted over generations to the changing environment of northern Africa, transitioning from lush savannah and grasslands ten millennia ago to the current arid Sahara. Unlike their larger and more aggressive relatives, the Nile crocodiles, the West African crocodiles tend to favor lagoons and wetlands in forested areas. Some of these wetlands, called “gueltas,” only form during rains or when underground springs collect in depressions. During the dry season, the crocodiles enter a state of torpor, reducing their movement and abstaining from eating.

West African crocodiles exhibit less aggression towards humans and are generally non-threatening. Many communities in West Africa live near these crocodiles, holding them in high regard and protecting them. In Bazoule, it is believed that these crocodiles descended from the sky along with the rains, and if they were to disappear, the water would vanish as well.

Similar traditions of living alongside sacred crocodiles are found in the town of Sabou in central western Burkina Faso. Just across the border in Ghana, the town of Paga also boasts a population of crocodiles that peacefully coexist with the residents. In both Bazoule and Paga, guides are available to entice the crocodiles out of the water using live chickens as bait, allowing tourists to interact with and photograph these remarkable creatures.

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