Lifestyle & Belief

Thousands of crocodiles escape South African farm after flooding


A no-swimming sign warning of crocodiles is seen at Finch Bay in Queensland, Australia, on June 20, 2011.


Mark Kolbe

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Waterways here became more dangerous this week when 15,000 crocodiles escaped from a tourist farm in the north of the country in severe flooding caused by heavy rains in northern South Africa and neighboring countries.

The Rakwena Crocodile Farm, located in Limpopo province, was hit by flooding on Sunday evening, forcing the farm owners to open the crocodile enclosure gates to prevent the structure from collapsing, the Afrikaans-language newspaper Beeld reports.

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Thousands of crocodiles headed for the Limpopo River. Family member Zane Langman said that half the animals had been caught, the other half remained free, News 24 reported.

“There used to be only a few crocodiles in the Limpopo River," Langman said. "Now there are a lot."

Langman said he had managed to save friends from a flooding house earlier in the week after it was surrounded by circling crocodiles earlier this week.

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Photos of the Rakwena Crocodile Farm's operation shows the beasts lounging around pens.

Limpopo Province has been hit hard by flooding this year: three children there died over the weekend when their homes collapsed due to the deluge, the Mail and Guardian reported.

At least 10 people have been killed in the floods, and hundreds left homeless. Several wildlife resorts have been affected. At the Kruger National Park, a popular safari destination, about 100 people including tourists and staff were evacuated after the floodwaters deluged camps, roads and bridges.

The Nile crocodile, found in many parts of Africa, can grow up to 16 feet long. Crocodiles are raised for meat at commercial farms, as well as for leather used to make handbags, belts and shoes. The reptiles have been known to attack humans, often locals crossing crocodile-infested rivers.

Rakwena Crocodile Farm is located on the Limpopo River, near where South Africa borders Botswana and Zimbabwe.