July 26, 2006

S.Africa hunts for loose crocodiles near J’burg

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African police and wildlife officials are hunting for at least two crocodiles south of Johannesburg after several sightings.

Wild crocodiles are not found naturally in the region, leading to speculation that the reptiles have escaped from farms or zoos.

"We are concerned that people are shooting crocodiles," said Leon Lotter, Acting Director for Nature Conservation, the wildlife authority for Gauteng province.

An official is storing a meter-long crocodile in her home refrigerator which was believed to have been shot. Police hope to lay a charge of unlawful hunting next week against at least one local resident.

Lotter said wildlife officers would try and lure the reptiles with traps baited with rotten meat.

"Since the crocodiles don't occur there naturally, the idea is for us to catch them and take them back to a crocodile farm or a zoo," he said.

Police have warned people to avoid the Sugar Bush, Klip and Vaal rivers, which lie about 40 to 50 km (25 to 31 miles) south of Johannesburg and are popular with anglers and paddlers.