Sometimes tough choices have to be made.
Take the folks there at Rakwena Crocodile Farm in South Africa. With heavy rains Thursday forcing the Limpopo River over its banks, the farm people, “fearing that the raging floodwaters would crush the walls of their house,” elected to open gates that would allow their charges to escape from confinement and then wander across the land.
Their charges being, well, some 15,000 crocodiles.
“There used to be only a few crocodiles in the Limpopo River,” said Zane Langman, whose father-in-law is—or was—the chief Rakwena croc farmer. “Now there are a lot.”
The New York Times reports that “efforts to reach the farm and the local police directly were unsuccessful, with no one answering the phones.”
Gee. Like that is a surprise. With 15,000 loosed crocodiles padding about, there are probably no longer a lot of intact humans in the vicinity. And crocodiles do not use the phone.
According to the BBC, neither the police nor the armed forces are engaged in attempting to recapture the beasts. Their excuse: no one has asked them to. A uniformed spokesbeing, one Hangwani Mulaudzi, stated “an official request would have to be made by the farm to involve the armed forces, which has not happened.”
Of course, if there are no longer any functional homo sapiens on the farm, such a request cannot be made.
Meanwhile, “villagers have been warned not to try and capture a crocodile on their own,” Mulaudzi said.
Seems sound advice.
Nevertheless, it is civilian volunteers who are participating in the roundup.
During the floods Mr. Langman set out in a boat to rescue his neighbors. “You want to get them, but you wonder the whole time if you’ll make it there,” he said[.] “When we reached them, the crocodiles were swimming around them. Praise the Lord, they were all alive.”
Crocodile-roping is reportedly most successful at night. According to the apparently insane Langman:
“At night time we have more success and we can see their red eyes—it’s much easier to see them. They are reasonably active so you have to jump on them and catch them[.]“
One might reasonably ask: why in the world would anybody “farm” 15,000 crocodiles?
Seems this pursuit is quite common along the river: “the land along the Limpopo is home to dozens of game reserves and crocodile farms, some housing tens of thousands of reptiles.”
The Rakwena reptiles “are mostly bred for their skin, which is exported to Europe and parts of Asia to make shoes, jackets and handbags.”
Rakwena “is also a tourist attraction, with visitors able to go on guided crocodile tours.”
Now, no guides are needed. Even if they were available. For the crocodiles are everywhere. And anybody who wants to go see them, is welcome to do so.
Meanwhile, apparently some of the freed animals are taking up rugby.
South Africa’s Beeld newspaper quoted Mr Langman as saying that some of the crocodiles had been recaptured on a school rugby pitch in Muskina, a town on the border with Zimbabwe about 120km from the farm.
So: 120 kilometers. Or 75 miles. They move fast, these people. All 15,000 of them.
Rugby-playing crocodiles. Coming soon. To SportsCenter. Watch for it.