South African crocodiles 'in mass escape' during floods

Employee at a crocodile farm in Ivory Coast move the reptiles during cleaning operations (1 July 2006) Crocodiles are farmed for their meat and their skin

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About 15,000 crocodiles have reportedly escaped from a farm in South Africa's far north amid heavy rains and flooding.

The owner was forced to open the crocodile farm's gates on Sunday to prevent a storm surge, the local Beeld newspaper says.

Many of the crocodiles have been recaptured, but more than half are still on the loose, it says.

The floods have killed at least 10 people in Limpopo province.

Start Quote

When we reached them, the crocodiles were swimming around them. Praise the Lord, they were all alive”

End Quote Zane Langman Crocodile farmer

The crocodiles escaped from the Rakwena Crocodile Farm, a tourist site about 15km (nine miles) from the small town of Pontdrif, which borders Botswana.

'School rugby field'

Zane Langman, the son-in-law of the farm's owner, told the newspaper that many of the crocodiles had escaped into dense bush and the Limpopo River, the second biggest in South Africa.

"There used to be only a few crocodiles in the Limpopo River. Now there are a lot. We go to catch them as soon as farmers call us to inform us about crocodiles," said Mr Langman.

"I heard there were crocodiles in Musina [about 120km away] on the school's rugby field."

Mr Langman said he went to rescue friends in a flooded house in the area by boat on Sunday.

"When we reached them, the crocodiles were swimming around them. Praise the Lord, they were all alive," he is quoted as saying.

The South African Air Force is being used to rescue people affected by the flooding in remote settlements, some of which are cut off from the outside world.

The floods have also affected neighbouring Mozambique, where tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes.

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