Cape Town – Seven of the young crocodiles that escaped from a breeding farm into the Breede River, Western Cape, have had to be euthanised, CapeNature said on Friday.
After 27 sub-adult Nile crocodiles were recaptured within a day of Wednesday's mass escape near Bonnievale, experts spotted another 13 last night.
Despite their best efforts to recapture them, CapeNature experts were forced to euthanise seven of the animals. As they prove harder and harder to catch, they are now posing a serious threat to surrounding community members.
CapeNature said it was not known how many were still at large. The commercial farm owner has no idea of exactly how many of his over 5 000 crocodiles had escaped through a hole in a wire fence.
Each between 1.2m and 1.5m long, CapeNature said baited trap cages were no longer working because the reptiles were feasting on “an abundance of food in the river”.
“The recapturing efforts will continue with CapeNature, the farm owner, surrounding landowners and the SAPS.
“An area about 5km upstream towards Robertson and 5km downstream towards Swellendam is the key area.
“The overgrown river and dense vegetation on the riverbanks also make it very difficult to recapture these crocodiles,’’ CapeNature said.
“Being nocturnal animals, the best time to search for them is at night, which brings its own challenges in terms of visibility.
“As time is of the essence, CapeNature and the search party partners were left with no choice but to euthanise seven of the crocodiles spotted. Though crocodiles are indigenous to SA, they are not part of the natural fauna of the Western Cape.”
CapeNature chief executive Razeena Omar was “saddened by the extreme measure this operation is now requiring”, saying: “CapeNature regards the safety of the surrounding community first and foremost, which further accentuates the urgency of the recapturing of these wild animals.
“The situation remains fluid and the recapturing techniques have to be effective in the best interest of public safety.”
Four police boats with two divers each are patrolling the Breede River for 5km either side of Bonnievale, in the direction of Robertson upstream and Swellendam downstream.
Omar said CapeNature would lead an investigation into the crocodiles’ escape “to ascertain whether there was a breach in complying to the permit regulations”.
Police spokesperson FC van Wyk said schools in the Bonnievale area were contacted and the principals informed to ’’sensitise the learners regarding safety measures and the danger of the current situation’’.
Anyone who sees a crocodile is asked to call Bonnievale police on (023) 616-8060.