A Chinese city has launched an operation to find a large number of crocodiles that escaped when floods hit the region in recent days, authorities have said.
A typhoon brought sustained heavy rains to southern China last week, triggering inundations in Hong Kong and other areas.
Deluges around the city of Maoming in Guangdong province caused a lake at a commercial crocodile farm to overflow with over 70 animals escaping, local media reported. Local authorities warned villagers in Peng Cun at one point to stay indoors after crocodiles were seen in the area.
A spokesperson from the local emergency management office told the AFP news agency on Tuesday that officials were “working to deal with” the reptilian runaways.
The person did not say how many animals were still on the loose or whether any had so far been recovered, however reports in Chinese state media said eight had been caught. Some have reportedly been shot or electrocuted.
A video published by the state-backed Beijing News showed responders in red uniforms searching flooded fields in rescue boats. Other images showed several two-metre-long crocodiles lying on the road, their jaws bound tight with red tape.
“Crocodiles are still in the water, and several government departments are working to catch them,” the state-affiliated China National Radio (CNR) reported, citing the local agriculture bureau.
“The specific situation is still under investigation … [including] the specific number of crocodiles,” CNR said.
Crocodiles are bred in China for their skin as well as their meat, which is sometimes used in traditional medicine. The stricken area is also home to a “crocodile theme park” and “the country’s largest crocodile breeding base”, according to CNR.