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Although 2,000 crocodiles have been recaptured, as many as 10,000 may still be on the loose. (Mike Hutchings / Reuters)

Crocs on the Loose

Thousands of crocodiles escape from a South African farm

By Jennifer Marino Walters | February 6 , 2013
<p>PHOTO: After catching the reptiles, croc hunters use plastic bands to tie the crocodiles’ legs behind their backs. (Mike Hutchings / Reuters)</p><p> MAP: The Rakwena Crocodile Farm is located in the northernmost part of South Africa. (Jim McMahon)</p>

PHOTO: After catching the reptiles, croc hunters use plastic bands to tie the crocodiles’ legs behind their backs. (Mike Hutchings / Reuters)

MAP: The Rakwena Crocodile Farm is located in the northernmost part of South Africa. (Jim McMahon)

A massive hunt is under way in South Africa for thousands of crocodiles that escaped from a farm in the northernmost part of the country. The reptiles got loose after the owners of the Rakwena Crocodile Farm opened its floodgates to prevent rising floodwaters from crushing the animals. Heavy rains in the area at the end of last month caused the flooding.

Many of the escaped crocodiles washed into the nearby Limpopo River, the second-largest river in the country. Others swarmed the land near the river. Some were even found on a school rugby field about 75 miles away from the farm.

Zane Langman, who works at the Rakwena Farm, told reporters he took a boat to rescue friends in a nearby flooded house.

“When we reached them, the crocodiles were swimming around them,” he said. “[Luckily] they were all alive.”

More than 2,000 of the reptiles have been recaptured, but as many as 10,000 are still on the loose.

ROUNDING UP REPTILES

The farm’s owners, workers, and other crocodile hunters have been going out every night to search for the runaway reptiles. Crocodiles are usually more active at night, when they search for water.

“At nighttime, we have more success [because] we can see their red eyes,” Langman says. “[The crocodiles] are reasonably active, so [we] have to jump on them [to] catch them.”

The hunters use plastic bands to tie the crocodiles’ legs behind their backs. Then they pile the animals into pickup trucks and return them to the farm.

Rakwena Farm is one of several crocodile farms in Limpopo Province that supply crocodile skins to the fashion industry in Europe and parts of Asia. According to police, no crocodile attacks have been reported in the area so far. However, villagers have been warned not to try to capture a crocodile on their own.

The flooding in Limpopo Province killed 10 people and left many stranded. In addition, tens of thousands of people in the neighboring country of Mozambique had to be evacuated from their homes.

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