Sun, Jan 27, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Help us catch thousands of crocodiles, police ask

AP, JOHANNESBURG

Calling all crocodile experts — South African police say you are needed to help capture thousands of the animals out on the lam.

Thousands of crocodiles escaped a breeding farm along a river on the South Africa-Botswana border when the farms’ gates were opened earlier this week to alleviate pressure caused by rising floodwaters.

Efforts are now being made to wrangle the reptiles and get them back to the Rakwena Crocodile Farm, from where the vast majority escaped.

Hangwani Mulaudzi, a spokesman for the police in Limpopo Province, said on Friday that experts are needed right away to help sort out the crocodile crisis.

“Due to the number of crocodiles that have been washed away there is a need for expertise; people who have expertise to come and assist,” Mulaudzi said. “So we are just making appeals to anyone ... who has knowledge of catching crocodiles to come and assist.”

News reports from the scene show people hunting down smaller crocodiles at night, tying them up and taking them back to the Rakwena Crocodile Farm in northern South Africa. The crocodiles are easier to hunt at night because their eyes glow when hit with a beam of light.

The farm’s Web site shows crocodiles of up to 5m long, though crocodiles of all sizes escaped, Mulaudzi said.

Farm spokesman Zane Langman told local television channel eNews Channel Africa that most were small and easy for his team to catch.

“The majority are 2.5m and less, so we just basically jump on their backs and tie them up, load them up and take them back to enclosures,” he said.

The bigger ones were trickier, he admitted.

“We tie straps around their mouths ... then tie the legs behind the back and inject them with a solution that’s basically a muscle-relaxant,” Langman said.

It is not clear exactly how many crocodiles are on the loose. Mulaudzi said he believes about 10,000 from multiple farms remain on the loose.

Officials from the Rakwena Crocodile Farm have been quoted in conflicting South African media accounts as saying either 7,000 escaped or up to 15,000 escaped.

The farm originally held about 15,000 crocodiles. About 2,000 crocodiles have been returned to the farm, Mulaudzi said.

Regardless of the exact number of farm-raised crocs now touring the wild, government officials and experts are calling on people who live in the region, which is on the Limpopo River, to be careful around bodies of water. Many of the crocodiles are assumed to now be residing in the river.

“So far we are lucky. There has not been any emergencies,” Mulaudzi said. “And we are hopeful that nothing will happen, but with crocodiles all over and in the river we are saying, please, we need assistance.”

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