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Hunt is on for wild young crocodiles that escaped into South African river

CAPE TOWN, March 4 (Reuters) - The hunt is on for several young crocodiles that escaped from a breeding farm in the Western Cape province of South Africa, authorities said on Thursday after capturing 26 on overnight patrols.

An unknown number of Nile crocodiles, widespread in Africa, escaped from a Bonnievale commercial breeding farm into the Bree River on Wednesday, sparking a hunt involving police, landowners and conservation officials.

The escaped crocodiles, with a reputation as man-eaters, are 1.2 and 1.5 metres in length, authorities said.

“We’ve captured 26 at this point but I can’t say how many are still on the loose,” said Petro van Rhyn, a spokeswoman for CapeNature conversation agency on Thursday.

Bred mainly for leather products, the freshwater crocodiles can grow to an average length of five metres, with adult males weighing more than half a tonne.

“They present medium danger to people because they are farmed animals used to regular feeding and do not hunt for food, but they are wild and instinctive animals,” said Western Cape provincial government spokesman James-Brent Styan, urging people to steer clear of the river. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf; editing by Promit Mukherjee and Nick Macfie)

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