Authorities are “trying to keep things under control, but the number of escaped crocodiles is a bit too many,” state-run Dazhong Daily cited the district emergency management bureau in saying.
Residents in the city’s southern Maonan district, a major freshwater aquaculture base that housed the crocodile farm, have been told to stay vigilant and avoid going out, especially keeping away from rivers, lakes and reservoirs, the newspaper reported.
Videos posted to Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese platform, apparently showed crocodiles popping up their heads on a flooded road around a lake in Maoming.
An officer with the city’s emergency response department, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment before an official statement is released, said more than a dozen of the escaped crocodiles have been found, but “there could still be over 50 out there.”
Police, firefighters and emergency responders with underwater sonar equipment have been mobilized for the search, and multiple teams are patrolling on motorboats, yet “we are not quite sure where they are,” the officer said, adding that there were no casualty reports as of Tuesday morning.
Paramilitary forces stationed in the area have received orders to shoot dead any crocodile that emerges from the deep-water zone, Southern Metropolis Daily reported, which also cited villagers who visited the farm in saying the smallest adult crocodiles there weigh at least 220 pounds. Warning signs have been set up around the perimeter of the inundated farms and cropland, the newspaper reported.
Maoming and the broader Guangdong province have been battered by two typhoons in two weeks, with Saola and Haikui wreaking havoc across Taiwan and southern China. Landslides caused by extreme downpours Sunday and Monday have killed at least seven people in the neighboring Guangxi region, state media reported Tuesday. Hong Kong’s streets turned to rivers last week, as a quarter of all the rainfall expected for a year fell in 24 hours.
Maoming has some of the country’s largest crocodile farms, with crocodile skin manufacturing facilities in nearby cities. Crocodile meat is also a local delicacy.
The farming and trade of live crocodiles is allowed under Chinese law, and cases of farmed reptiles running loose are not uncommon in the country. In 2013, crocodiles reportedly escaped from a farm in the same city after the barbed wire around the farm got rusty and flimsy because of prolonged flooding. Two months later, several dozen crocodiles got out of their farm enclosure in Shantou city after flooding. And in 2022, a farmer in Yibin, in southwestern Sichuan province, reported that six of his farmed crocodiles went missing, prompting the city to issue a warning to swimmers.