Our Burning Planet

PROVINCIAL DISASTER

Captive KZN crocodiles rounded up after escaping flood-damaged enclosure

Captive KZN crocodiles rounded up after escaping flood-damaged enclosure
From left: Staff at Crocodile Creek retrieve one of the escaped reptiles. | Crocodile Creek manager Sean Le Clus hauls a 3m crocodile up a 100m eroded slope. | A four-wheeler machine is used to haul an escaped croc back to its pond at Crocodile Creek. (Photos: Crocodile Creek)

Thirteen crocodiles have been recaptured north of Durban after making a break for freedom during the mayhem of the KwaZulu-Natal floods — though one of the reptiles seems to have returned of its own volition.

An undisclosed number of captive crocodiles escaped from their enclosures earlier this week after a massive pulse of stormwater from the N2 highway ripped open fencing and gabion walls at the Crocodile Creek farm near Tongaat.

Peter Watson, the 80-year-old owner of the croc farm, said seven of the escaped reptiles were captured on 12 April and another six the following day.

The farm is located between the M4 coastal road and N2 freeway near Ballito, close to the uThongathi River which flows into the Indian Ocean north of Durban.

Watson said he was “not sure” just how many crocs escaped, but denied that he owns the large, four to five-metre croc that was sighted and filmed this week beneath a damaged bridge over the M4 a few kilometres from the upmarket Zimbali resort.

Watson said he owned only one similar-sized croc, a five-metre, 640kg male named Hannibal (sourced from Botswana).

“I would love another croc that size and am willing to pay R20,000 to anyone who catches it and delivers it to me,” said Watson, who said he was often blamed for the presence of any crocodile spotted in the wild “anywhere between Tanzania and Cape Town”.

According to Watson, the large croc sighted at the mouth of the uThongathi River this week “has been there for over a year” and had been photographed several times previously.

Nevertheless, the eThekwini municipality issued a warning to residents on 13 April that roughly a dozen crocodiles had escaped into the uThongathi River as a result of storm damage and that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and City officials were “monitoring the situation”.

 

Ezemvelo also posted an alert on its Facebook page, warning that Crocodile Creek was less than a kilometre from the uThongathi River and that a number of reptiles may have walked downstream into this river.

Watson, meanwhile, said he spent most of the day on 12 April standing guard at the farm’s partially washed-away boundary fence “smacking (crocs) on the nose” to discourage them from leaving the property.

One of the escapees seemingly returned of its own accord and was shepherded back to its pond while climbing up an eroded embankment.

In 2014, Watson narrowly escaped serious injury after being attacked by one of his large female crocodiles. The attack was captured on video. DM

 

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