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South Africa volunteers hunt thousands of runaway crocs

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-01-26

When heavy rains forced the owners of a South African crocodile farm to open its gates, some 10,000 of the animals made an escape from their fate of becoming handbags and purses. A huge hunt is under way to round them up.

A huge operation is underway in South Africa to round up thousands of crocodiles who escaped from a farm during heavy flooding.

The reptiles managed to escape their confines when staff were forced to open the gates to prevent a storm surge.

The Rakwena Crocodile Farm in the far north of the country kept some 15,000 of the animals, destined to become purses and handbags.

A “large number” of them are now on the loose, farm owner Johan Boshoff told Agence France Presse.

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

Police on Thursday said about a thousand had been caught, and that there was little risk of attacks as a small army of volunteers was working round the clock to round them up.

No risk to humans

"The majority are 2.5 metres and less, so ... we just basically jump on their backs and tie them up, load them up and take them back to enclosures," farm spokesman Zane Langman told reporters.

Donald Strydom, a wildlife expert at South Africa's Khamai Reptile Centre, said he doesn't think the croc release would lead to a loss of human life.

People are aware of the situation, he said, and crocodiles don't naturally hunt humans.

“People must not go into a monster hunt and think these crocodiles are out to eat them,” Strydom told South Africa's eNews Channel Africa.

Crocodiles can be easily spotted at night, when their red eyes are easily seen in lamplight, and local television footage showed catchers wrestling with the reptiles in mud, then tying up the animals' limbs with ropes.

Heavy rains in northern parts of South Africa have provoked floods on notably the Limpopo River. The deluge wreaked havoc as far as neighbouring Mozambique, displacing tens of thousands of people on its way to the Indian Ocean.

Date created : 2013-01-25