JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa has called out the police to join the hunt for as many as 10,000 crocodiles on the loose after escaping from a farm during floods and being washed into one of southern Africa's biggest rivers, officials said on Friday.
Crocodile farmers, locals and police have trapped thousands of the reptiles, using plastic bands to tie their legs behind their backs and then piling them into pick-up trucks.
The flood gates at the Rakwena Crocodile Farm close to the Botswana and Zimbabwe borders were opened on Sunday because it was feared that rising flood waters would crush the reptiles, releasing some 15,000 crocodiles into the Limpopo River.
"At night time we have more success. It is much easier to see them," Zane Langman, whose in-laws own the farm, told news channel ENCA.
Most of the crocodiles are less then two meters (78 inches) long. The area is home to several farms that supply crocodile skins to the fashion industry.
"We are working as a team with the stakeholders," police spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said on Friday. There have been no reports of injuries caused the escaped reptiles.
Police in Zimbabwe, on the other side of the Limpopo, also issued warnings to people to avoid going into the water because of the crocodile threat.
Heavy rains and flooding have claimed at least 20 lives in Mozambique and South Africa and led to the evacuations of thousands.
(Reporting Peroshni Govender, Jon Herskovitz and Nelson Banya, editing Paul Casciato)