Heavy rains in western China led to a dangerous situation when six crocodiles from a farm escaped from their fenced pond on Monday morning, with the final one being found on Tuesday evening.
Authorities in Yibin, in Sichuan province, captured the six Siamese crocodiles after a two-day hunt. The species is a critically endangered crocodile native to Southeast Asia and are often farmed in China for their meat and skin.
The pond was owned by a restaurant owner surnamed Kang, with the crocodiles destined to be butchered and served in his restaurant. The local government issued an emergency safety alert after Kang called the police.
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The crocodiles were young and relatively small, weighing about 7.5kg and they were about 1.3m long.
Kang, who claimed to be a co-owner of a restaurant, said the crocodiles were purchased from a farm in Shandong province and had just arrived on Sunday.
He said they were not harmful because they were relatively small and their snouts were tied shut. He said they probably climbed over a 1.5 meter-tall fence around the pond or were stolen by someone during the storm.
Police officers and villagers found one in a nearby construction site and another in a nearby pond in the same village. Local residents found three more in unspecified locations. The final escapee was found close to the owner’s pond.
Amid concerns that the crocodiles swam to the Jinsha River, a major river in western China that flows through Yibin, a local swimming association issued a warning to its members against swimming in natural waters on Monday.
Chinese law allows people to eat three types of crocodiles, including the Siamese crocodiles, if they are bred in captivity.
Crocodile meat is available at major food markets and some restaurants in China but was the source of controversy when a frozen crocodile weighing over 10kg was sold on a leading food delivery app Hema Xiansheng in March.
In Hong Kong, a June 2021 case of Covid-19 was linked to frozen crocodile packaging, although authorities never determined if the wrapping was infected by the patient or vice versa.
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