South African Crocodile Found not Guilty

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A crocodile trapped in the reeds of the Sibhicayi River is not the four-metre long monster believed to have eaten two northern KwaZulu-Natal residents in recent weeks, wildlife officials said.

Ezemvelo Wildlife spokeswoman Maureen Zimu said the crocodile had been found trapped in the reeds of the river on Thursday.

"But it was only 1.8 metres long and about five or six years old. The one we are looking for is about four metres long."

However, to be absolutely sure that it was not the guilty reptile, the 1.8 metre creature was taken to Mtubatuba where it was x-rayed.

"We needed to ensure that there were no human remains in its stomach," said Zimu. "There were only stones in its stomach, which helps it with its digestion."

She said the crocodile would be released in another area away from where people were living.

Authorities would continue attempting to lure and capture the killer crocodile.

There are fears among Ezemvelo Wildlife officials that if the crocodile is a female she may have already laid eggs. A nesting crocodile may display increased aggression.

Early in January, a 15-year-old boy who was fishing with his 11-year-old friend was dragged into the water and eaten by a crocodile at the Sibhicayi River in the Mduku area.

Zimu said that prior to this another resident was attacked and eaten by a suspected six metre long crocodile. It was later established that the crocodile was four metres long.

Zimu said officials believed the same crocodile was responsible for both attacks.

"A crocodile generally goes to the edge of a river, digs a hole and lays its eggs. It will then sit nearby and watch like a hawk that no one goes near its nest... they are very clever," Zimu explained.

A crocodile may sit in the same spot for up to three weeks and watch the activities.

She said that if the four-metre crocodile was caught, it would also have to be taken for x-rays.

If it was then determined from the x-rays that there were human remains inside the crocodile's stomach, Zimu said officials would attempt to retrieve the remains from the croc.

She said the crocodile could possibly undergo an operation to retrieve the remains.

"There is an inquest docket being investigated by the police, so we will have to hand over the remains."

She said the crocodile would not be put down.

"We don't put down crocodiles. Our business is to conserve wildlife," Zimu said.

On Wednesday police spokesman Captain Jabulani Mdletshe said a problem in capturing the reptile was that the meat bait being used had twice been stolen.

He said police had not yet apprehended the meat thief.

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