Soldiers nab runaway crocs in Vietnam, extend hunt

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HANOI, Nov 14 (Reuters) Soldiers and rangers have captured 65 crocodiles which escaped from a breeding farm in a central Vietnam province, but hundreds more are still on the loose, officials said today.

They said soldiers shot dead eight fresh water crocodiles and returned those captured to the breeding farm in Khanh Hoa province where raging floodwaters broke cages on Saturday, allowing the crocodiles to escape.

''We have the army, rangers and local militia joining this search,'' said Tran Minh Thu, head of the provincial Ranger department's inspection unit.

Local people joined the hunt and slaughtered seven crocodiles themselves, Thu added. Officials said they do not know exactly how many crocodiles escaped, but estimate the number could be in the hundreds.

The farm run by a Vietnamese firm, Khanh Viet Corp, was registered to raise 5,544 crocodiles. The farm is legal and breeds crocodiles to supply the skin and meat.

Officials said the fresh water crocodiles can attack people and animals while inland but they cannot survive in sea water, making it unlikely they would appear on sandy beaches popular among tourists.

Parts of central Vietnam have been under water from flooding since early last month, with more than 300 people killed in a series of storms that brought heavy rain and raised river levels.

REUTERS SV RAI1052

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