Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Crocodiles Are losing Their Teeth Due to Lead Poisoning, Finds Study

May 27, 2022

Researchers have found that lead poisoning is responsible for the loss of crocodile teeth in a lake at a World Heritage site in South Africa.

The study sampled blood and adipose tissue from the tails of 25 blue crocodiles on St Lucia Lake in KwaZulu-Natal province’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which was recognized by UNESCO in 1999 for its natural beauty.

An article published online last week by the scientific journal Chemosphere states that sinkers used for fishing are a source of risk and require “immediate attention.”

Mark Hampris, one of the authors of the report from the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Chemistry in South Africa, said the results were “amazing” given the region’s World Heritage status.

The lead concentration in the blood of the Lake St Lucia crocodile is the highest ever recorded in wildlife worldwide, according to Bloomberg News Agency.

Lead accumulates in the bones and weakens the infected crocodile’s teeth. Reptiles can’t replace lost teeth, Bloomberg reports.

The crocodiles mostly eat fish but also prey on antelopes, bush pigs and smaller hippos in the lake.

“There are non-toxic alternatives to lead (steel and tungsten for example) that government and conservation authorities in South Africa should be exploring,” Humphries said. “We continue to allow lead to be used in some of our most important conservation areas.”