Heavy rains in South Africa forced the owners of a crocodile farm to open their gates in advance of an anticipated storm surge when the Limpopo River rose, allowing about 15,000 reptiles to escape.
According to the Guardian, a "few thousand" of the farm's crocodiles have been recaptured, but "more than half" are still on the loose in the dense brush around the Limpopo. One of the animals was reportedly sighted on a rugby field 75 miles away from the farm.
"There used to be only a few crocodiles in the Limpopo River," Zane Langman, the son-in-law of Johan Boshoff, the owner of Rakwena Crocodile Farm, told the local Beeld newspaper. "Now there are a lot."
Severe flooding has hit southern Africa lately, forcing evacuations in Mozambique. According to the BBC, one Limpopo family was rescued from their flooded home as "crocodiles were swimming around them."
Rakwena is a crocodile breeding farm near the border with Botswana. Crocodiles are raised as food animals in different parts of the world, and the animals' hides are also used as leather for shoes and handbags.
In the past, crocodile and alligator breeding has drawn criticism from animal rights activists, who have objected to animals being raised for their skin and claimed that the animals were cruelly treated.
In 2012, Ann, Inc., the parent company of Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft, banned the use of exotic-animal skins, including crocodile, in its product lines, according to PETA.