At least two Nile crocodiles still on the loose after escape from Bonnievale farm
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Cape Town - There are at least two more Nile crocodiles at large that have been spotted but not yet retrieved following their escape from a crocodile farm near Bonnievale in March.
On Tuesday CapeNature said recapture operations have been scaled down, but they would continue with at least one nightly river patrol per week with the aid of landowners.
A total of 51 crocodiles have been shot and 32 recaptured since the reptiles escaped when they found a weak spot in the perimeter fencing of one of the enclosures.
“The transgression of the facility owner is currently under investigation and a decision will be taken soon toward any form of prosecution,” CapeNature spokesperson Petro Van Rhyn said.
According to a response from Local Government MEC Anton Bredell to the legislature last week, a total of R336 894 has been spent on finding the escaped crocodiles.
Estimated costs incurred during the operation include R210 497 for CapeNature efforts and R126 397 for police.
Since the matter is still under investigation, CapeNature is not in a position to decide whether it will be submitting a claim to recover the expenses incurred, Bredell said.
CapeNature’s Langeberg Landscape Unit Off-reserve management team under conservation manager Corne Claassen, led the recapture operation.
“This was done with the assistance of the facility owner, as well as several neighbouring landowners,” Van Ryhn said.
“CapeNature is of the opinion that there are at least two more crocodiles at large; they have been spotted, but not yet retrieved. No other sightings have been reported recently and the recent rains and flooding of the Breede River appear not to have had any impact on their movements. Euthanised crocodiles generally had empty stomachs, which indicate that they find it difficult to feed and would be under severe stress especially now that winter has set in.”
CapeNature’s Langeberg Landscape Unit Off-reserve management team comprised nine officials with on average a three-person team daily, assisted by the SAPS Diving Unit comprising a seven-person team and three boats.
“The crocodile facility was comprehensively inspected following the escape, and repair work to the enclosure where the escape took place was completed to the standard dictated by the CapeNature fencing policy for crocodile facilities,“ Van Ryhn said.
Police spokesperson Andrè Traut said the escape necessitated the deployment of the SAPS diving unit, local police and the police chopper to assist with the search operation to prevent the loss of lives over a month.