Nearly 100 Chinese alligators have escaped their pens in Wuhu, Anhui, after flooding along the Yangtze River allowed them to swim over their enclosure fences,
Anhui Business News reports.
By Wednesday afternoon, only eight of the escaped animals had been recaptured.
An elderly farmer in the town of Huaqiao said he opened his door on Wednesday morning and saw an alligator lying on his doorstep. Other villagers reported they had encountered the predators regularly in recent days, sometimes mistaking the animals for rotten logs floating on the surface of the water.
Over a large area of flooded farmland, the deep noises made by the alligators could constantly be heard and sounded “like pigs”, according to the report.
The animals all belonged to one alligator farm. The farm owner said he had received flood warnings and had carried out countermeasures such as strengthening the fences, but the flood pushed the water level to more than half a metre above the fences.
The farm is not the largest in Anhui. Another alligator farm in the city of Xuancheng keeps more than 10,000 alligators, and the local authorities are taking emergency measures to reinforce the fences. So far, only one animal has escaped.
The Chinese alligator, also known as the Yangtze alligator, is a native species that can grow to more than two metres in length and there are historical records of them attacking humans. In recent decades, the number of alligators has declined sharply due to pollution and over hunting, with very few reports of sightings in the wild. The farm animals were artificially bred for tourism, meat, leather and use in Chinese traditional medicines.
The Wuhu government said Chinese alligators are usually timid and should not attack people unless frightened or provoked. A task force including government animal experts is on hand to recapture the escaped animals.
The government warned that anyone who spread rumours to cause public panic would be arrested and punished severely.
According to farmers taking part in the recapture mission, the animals are not easy to catch as they are constantly on high alert and, when animal experts approached them with nets, tend to submerge and escaped in the muddy water.
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