September 17, 2008
Bonfire of the Crocs
By MIKE SWAIN; Science Editor
WILDLIFE rangers light a huge bonfire piled with dead crocodiles to try to halt the spread of a disease that is threatening a whole colony.
More than 150 crocs have died in three months in an epidemic that is puzzling scientists.
It is feared the infection is spreading because healthy animals are eating the dead ones.
So all the carcasses are being torched at Olifants Gorge in Kruger Park, South Africa.
It is known they are dying of pansteatitis from a lack of vitamin E. The usual cause is rotten fish - but there have been no unusual reports of dead fish in the Olifants or Letaba rivers, home to many Nile crocodiles.
Pollution has not been ruled out but South Africa's environment minister Marthinus van S chalkwy told parliament the outbreak is thought to have started when the crocs ate fishermen's rotten catch after it was dumped.
He said: "The burning will continue for the forseeable future."
HOW LONG CROCS USUALLY LIVE FOR IN THE WILD. MANY EXCEED 100. ONE IN A RUSSIAN ZOO LIVED TO BE 115.
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