Five crocodiles on the loose after staff at Chinese farm fail to round them up after mass breakout
Staff and fisherman launch ‘dead-or-alive’ hunt for last fugitives after 78 of the animals initially escaped from a holding pen
Five crocodiles are still missing after a mass escape from a farm in western China, local media reported.
A total of 78 reptiles fled a holding container on Saturday morning while their barn in Sky World Crocodile Farm in Nanbu county, Sichuan was being renovated.
The Siamese crocodiles fled into a nearby fish pond and the West River, according to Thursday’s report in Chengdu Business Daily.
The farm has successfully recaptured 73 of the escaped group, but farm staff are still looking for five crocodiles.
The escaped animals were all juvenile and incapable of harming people, according to the farm manager Jiang Meng.
He added that the crocodiles cannot survive more than 10 days in the wild during winter in Sichuan, where temperatures dip below the 25 Celsius minimum they need to survive.
However, another Chengdu crocodile breeder surnamed Xu says that the crocodiles may have a chance of surviving if they find a cave or other suitable place to hide during cold weather.
Residents of the 27 riverside villages were terrified after hearing the news, fearing that they may eventually breed and become a threat to their lives.
A dedicated search team from the farm is cooperating with local fishermen to find the fugitives, and have placed fishing nets all the way down the river in the hopes of catching them.
The crocodiles originally escaped after their storage container was accidentally overturned into the nearby pond.
“Despite those little buggers being small, they can run pretty quick,” said local farmer He Yonglin, who was responsible for watching over the crocodiles that day.
As soon as he saw the baby crocodiles disappear into the fish pond and river, he alerted the manager.
Local government and county police set up a search operation, saying that they needed to “see all the crocodiles, whether dead or alive”.
Workers managed to fish out 63 of the crocodiles from the fish pond alone the next morning.
Ten more crocodiles were pulled from the river by local fishermen on Sunday afternoon, including one found dead and trapped in a fishing net.
The Nanbu County Forestry Bureau has pledged to improve security standards at the farm to make sure this kind of incident does not happen again.
Siamese crocodiles are a small-to-medium sized freshwater crocodile species normally found in Southeast Asia.
They are now almost extinct in the wild, but widely bred in captivity for their meat and leather.
The largest specimens can reach up to 4 metres in length and 350kg in weight.
Crocodile farms are popular in Thailand, the US South and Australia, but the practice is now growing more common in Africa and China, where imports are banned but farming the animals is legal.