Crocodiles on the loose

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Employees and rescue workers take one of many escaped crocodiles back to the Million Years Stone Park’s crocodile farm.  This man-eating reptile was one of dozens that escaped from the farm when record flooding hit the area Sept. 11. Park officials admitted they had no idea how many were still on the loose.

When Wanchai Thongchai heard suspicious noises coming from the garden outside his East Pattaya home, he pulled out a flashlight to investigate. Imagine his surprise when he found a crocodile sitting there.

The 4-meter-long man-eating reptile was one of dozens that escaped the Million Years Stone Park’s crocodile farm when record flooding hit the area Sept. 11. By Sept. 14, 29 escaped amphibians had been captured, but park officials admitted they had no idea how many were still on the loose.

Employees and rescue workers take one of many escaped crocodiles back to the Million Years Stone Park’s crocodile farm.  This man-eating reptile was one of dozens that escaped from the farm when record flooding hit the area Sept. 11. Park officials admitted they had no idea how many were still on the loose. Employees and rescue workers take one of many escaped crocodiles back to the Million Years Stone Park’s crocodile farm.  This man-eating reptile was one of dozens that escaped from the farm when record flooding hit the area Sept. 11. Park officials admitted they had no idea how many were still on the loose.

The announcement from Pattaya Crocodile Farm executives sent the area around Soi Siam Country Club into a panic. Nearly 2,900 of the amphibians – known to swallow whole children as old as 8 – were in a man-made lake damaged by floods. Rushing water eroded the reservoir’s walls, creating a cave that ran under the farm’s perimeter fencing and out into the neighborhood.

While park officials initially said only a few of the crocs escaped, they later admitted it could be more than 100, enraging neighbors even further.

Brave men manage to capture another escaped crocodile.Brave men manage to capture another escaped crocodile.

“How do you adequately explain how you feel when you open your front door and this prehistoric monster is sitting there with a look in his eye that basically says ‘I’m starving mate’?” asked eastside resident David Burnett.

In Wanchai’s case, he wisely closed the door and called police, which sent members of the Pattaya Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Team to haul the amphibian away. It wasn’t easy. Animal-control officers were trying to use electric sticks to shock the croc into unconsciousness, the giant lizard escaped further into the jungle. It was eventually apprehended.

A nighttime search turned up this beast.A nighttime search turned up this beast.

A team of about 30 city workers is still scouring jungle areas and ponds near the park. Meanwhile, crocodile farm executives are offering 5,000 baht rewards for information leading to capture of any of the escaped convicts.

Croc sightings can be reported by calling 081-408-4999.