‘Shoot to kill’: armed China militia on standby after severe flooding allows more than 70 crocodiles to escape from breeding farm

‘Shoot to kill’: armed China militia on standby after severe flooding allows more than 70 crocodiles to escape from breeding farm
  • Severe floodwater is thought to have damaged fencing at farm, allowing 69 adult and six hatchlings to break free
  • Villagers in the area have been warned to be on lookout as armed local militia search for missing reptiles

A mass escape of crocodiles from a breeding farm in China following severe flooding has left nearby residents on edge and mainland social media astonished.

More than 70 of the reptiles – 69 adults and six hatchlings – swam through floodwaters caused by Typhoon Haikui and ended up in a lake in Maoming, Guangdong province, southern China, according to a report by Haibao News.

A video posted online on September 11 showed floodwaters surging onto a lakeside road with areas marked to show where the crocodiles had emerged.

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According to the caption, the animals had escaped from a nearby breeding farm.

The social media post also asked village representatives to warn residents to stay away from the water, prohibit fishing and promptly report anything unusual.

It is unclear which aquaculture company owns the breeding farm, but the head of a local crocodile farming cooperative told the weekly magazine China Newsweek that the heavy rains and subsequent flooding had probably breached the enclosure walls.

The farming cooperative head also speculated that daily maintenance of a protective wire fence may have been insufficient, potentially contributing to the escape, according to the magazine report.

Local residents have also expressed concerns, with one man telling online news site Nanfang Plus that he had previously spotted crocodiles from the nearby farm, some weighing at least 100kg (220lbs).

Nanfang Plus also reported that local militia members have remained on-site and have “shoot-on-sight” plans should any crocodiles emerge.

On September 11, firefighters involved in the operation to recapture the animals said that seven adult crocodiles and one hatchling had been recovered so far using sonar equipment, the Dushi Kuaibao newspaper reported.

Reptile science blogger Kou Tianwei told China Newsweek that it would be “perfectly acceptable” to kill the crocodiles if it was not possible to capture them alive and return them to the breeding facility.

Kou said there was no need to worry about any invasive species issues as result of the escape.

“In the wild, it’s very difficult for them to survive through the winter and even if they manage to survive and reproduce, the young are extremely intolerant of low temperatures,” he said.

The escape triggered a stir on mainland social media.

One person said ominously: “The crocodiles are not hungry yet, so please control them quickly. It will be troublesome when these guys need to eat.”

Another quipped: “It is like a real-life Jurassic Park!”

Others expressed sympathy for the owner of the breeding farm, with one saying they were as unfortunate as the crocodiles.

The incident revived memories of an escape from Hangzhou Safari Park in Zhejiang province, eastern China, in May 2021, when three leopards broke free thanks to staff negligence.

Two of the leopards were eventually located, the other one remains at large.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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