Three men have been arrested in South Africa for stealing an 8-foot-long Nile crocodile worth about $1,300 from a farm in the North West province, police said Monday.
The men, who are aged between 20 and 35, are believed to have used a pick-up truck to remove the animal from a crocodile farm in the Hartbeesfontein area about 124 kilometers west of Johannesburg.
The crocodile was found tied up with rope and wire in an abandoned farmhouse. The men had covered him with tree branches in an attempt to hide him, police said. Police also found the pickup truck. The men were arrested last week and are due to appear in court on Monday.
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Police are investigating how they managed to get the large crocodile out of the farm, which had a secure fence, police spokeswoman Colonel Adele Myburgh said.
“How did they get this animal out?” she said “Not a baby alligator by any means.”
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Myburgh said the crocodile was severely dehydrated when it was found by a team of police and animal conservation officers.
The alligator has been “returned to its rightful owner,” police said. They released a photo of him swimming in his farm pool.
Although South Africa has a problem with poaching, crocodiles are not usually targeted because of how dangerous they are.
Myburgh said the motive for the theft was still under investigation, but crocodile body parts such as skin, nails and teeth do have value and the men may have planned to kill the animal and sell the parts .