A four-member team of qualified personnel from the NSPCA went to the area on Saturday 26 January 2013. An estimated 15 000 crocodiles had escaped from the Rakwena crocodile farm near Pontdrif after the Limpopo river had come down in flood.
The NSPCA team's presence was to ensure the humane handling and capture of crocodiles and to intervene as necessary/required. The primary aim was to ensure that welfare was not compromised during the process.
Incidents were noted of crocodiles being stunned to facilitate capture without the use of water which rendered the process ineffective and inhumane. Not only is this harmful to the crocodiles but the captors were placing themselves in danger. Whilst the NSPCA's aim and mission is prevention of cruelty to animals, we add that the issue of safety of the humans working with animals is also of concern and importance.
Footage shown on the SABC on 29 January 2013 was not taken in the presence of the NSPCA personnel and showed unacceptable methods being deployed to capture and handle the crocodiles. The NSPCA has advised the SABC of this and has requested details of when and where this footage was taken.
It is unknown how many crocodiles remain "on the loose" over a wide area but the NSPCA believes that "thousands" is a true reflection of how many have not as yet been recaptured.
The NSPCA has grave concerns relating to escaped crocodiles in the Limpopo river.
Inspector Nazareth Appalsamy explained that these reptiles had been in captivity and from the day they hatched have never had to hunt their own food/prey. Additionally, there will be an undoubted impact on the water and eco-system (bio-diversity) if the crocodiles are not captured. Is there a sufficient food supply? Will they know how to hunt or will they approach settlements in seeking food?
Whilst the immediate focus is understandably on the crocodiles, it must be recognised that other animals in the area are at risk and they too are at the forefront of our concerns and compassion.
It is of course the role and function of the National Council of SPCAs to respond and to be present in emergency situations involving animals. We are called upon in crises and our track record is impeccable. Yet our resources are limited and we are not the only role-players.
Surely Nature Conservation which is government funded can be called upon to step in, take some responsibility and play a role – to name but one operation.