The Odd Side

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Calling all crocodile experts — South African police say you’re needed to help capture thousands of crocs out on the lam.

Thousands of crocodiles escaped a breeding farm along a river on the South Africa-Botswana border when the farms’ gates were opened earlier this week to alleviate pressure caused by rising floodwaters.

Efforts are now being made to wrangle the reptiles and get them back to the Rakwena Crocodile Farm, from where the vast majority escaped. Hangwani Mulaudzi, a spokesman for the police in Limpopo Province, said Friday that experts are needed right away to help sort out the crocodile crisis.

“Due to the number of crocodiles that have been washed away there is a need for … people who have expertise to come and assist,” Mulaudzi said. “So we are just making appeals to anyone … who has knowledge of catching crocodiles to come and assist.”

News reports show people hunting down smaller crocodiles at night, tying them up and taking them back to the Rakwena Crocodile Farm. The crocs are easier to hunt at night because their eyes glow when hit with a beam of light.

It isn’t clear exactly how many crocs are on the loose. Mulaudzi said he believes around 10,000 from multiple farms remain on the loose. Officials from the Rakwena Crocodile Farm have been quoted in conflicting media accounts as saying either 7,000 or up to 15,000 escaped. The farm originally held about 15,000 crocs. About 2,000 have been returned to the farm.

Regardless of the exact number of farm-raised crocs now touring the wild, government officials and experts are calling on people who live near the remote region, which sits on the Limpopo River, to be careful around bodies of water. Many of the crocodiles are assumed to now be residing in the river.

“So far we are lucky. There has not been any emergencies,” said Mulaudzi. “And we are hopeful that nothing will happen. But with crocodiles all over in the river we are saying, please, we need assistance.”

Donald Strydom, a wildlife expert at South Africa’s Khamai Reptile Centre, said he doesn’t think the croc release will lead to a loss of human life. People are aware of the situation, he said, and crocodiles don’t naturally hunt humans.

“People must not go into a monster hunt and think these crocodiles are out to eat them,” Styrdom told South Africa’s eNews Channel Africa.

Mulaudzi said he did not think the Rakwena Crocodile Farm would face any charges from police for releasing the crocs, given the emergency nature of the flood. Flood waters are inundating northern South Africa and neighboring Mozambique. But Mulaudzi said the farm may face scrutiny from the Department of Environmental Affairs, which is helping with the emergency.

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ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — It took 60 years, but a Minnesota man finally has his free candy bars.

Seventy-four-year-old Dave Bell of St. Cloud received a package of candy last week after sending an email reminding Pearson’s Candy Co. in St. Paul of the complaint he made as a teenager.

In 1952, Bell was 14 when he bit into a nut roll and discovered a twig. He tells the St. Cloud Times he sent a letter to Pearson’s “to obviously get some candy.”

He got a letter of apology from the son of one of the company’s founders. But no candy. Last year Bell came across the letter, so he reminded the company about the candy. It arrived Friday; Bell jokes he’s not sharing.

 

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DENVER (AP) — Authorities are hoping suspects come clean following a rash of thefts of laundry detergent and expensive face lotion across Colorado.

KCNC reported on Wednesday  that supermarkets are installing more surveillance cameras to combat the rising tide of thefts. They are also hiring undercover agents.

Authorities believe thieves are targeting those products because of high prices.

Police have surveillance video of a suspect in Ft. Lupton getting away with more than $8,000 of detergent from six different stores.

Detergent thefts have also been reported in other parts of the country. Tide in particular has been used as currency for illegal substances. Experts say it is well-suited for resale on the black market.

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Sheriff’s deputies say $600 lost by a man who went to a western Pennsylvania courthouse to pay child support has been “found” — illegally — by the wrong man.

Allegheny County sheriff’s Lt. Jack Kearney says a man mistakenly forgot the envelope containing the money when he emptied his pockets to go through a metal detector at the courthouse in Pittsburgh on Friday.

About 90 minutes later, another man approached a deputy manning the detector and claimed to have forgotten the money. Only trouble is, the man to whom the money really belonged returned later to claim it, only to learn that it was already claimed by the other man.

Deputies are reviewing court logs and surveillance video to determine who illegally claimed the money. That person could be charged with theft.

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SYDNEY (AP) — Gary the flower-eating goat’s graze with Australian police has ended with his owner getting the last laugh in court.

A Sydney judge ruled Wednesday that neither the goat nor his owner could be found guilty of vandalism over an August incident when Gary decided to snack on a flowerbed outside a city museum.

Police at the time leveled a fine of 440 Australian dollars ($465) against owner Jim Dezarnaul.

But man and goat got their day in court, with Gary arriving resplendent in a colorful hat. The brown-and-white goat didn’t testify, but he had his own lawyer.

Owner Dezarnaul said the case serves as a lesson to overzealous authorities, “and that’s ‘Don’t bite off more than you can chew.’”

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Gareth Morgan has a simple dream: a New Zealand free of pet cats that threaten native birds. The environmental advocate has triggered a claws-out backlash with his anti-feline campaign.

Morgan called on his countrymen Tuesday to make their current cat their last in order to save the nation’s unique bird species.

He doesn’t recommended people euthanize their current cats but rather neuter them and not replace them when they die. Morgan, an economist and well-known businessman, also suggests people keep cats indoors and that local governments make registration mandatory.

Morgan’s campaign is not sitting well in a country that boasts one of the highest cat ownership rates in the world.

“I say to Gareth Morgan, butt out of our lives,” Bob Kerridge, the president of the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the media. “Don’t deprive us of the beautiful companionship that a cat can provide individually and as a family.”

For thousands of years, New Zealand’s native birds had no predators and flourished. Some species, like the kiwi, were flightless. The arrival of mankind and its introduction of predators like cats, dogs and rodents have wiped out some native bird species altogether and endangered many others.

“Imagine a New Zealand teeming with native wildlife, penguins on the beach, kiwis roaming about in your garden,” Morgan says. “Imagine hearing birdsong in our cities.”

Many New Zealanders are against the campaign. And the science remains unclear. Some argue that cats may actually help native birds by reducing the population of rodents, which sometimes feed on bird eggs.

Morgan, in fact, has a separate campaign to raise $1 million to eradicate mice from the remote Antipodes Islands, where rodents are the only predators.

A 2011 survey by the New Zealand Companion Animal Council found that 48 percent of households in New Zealand owned at least one cat. The survey put the total cat population at 1.4 million.

In the U.S., 33 percent of households own at least one cat for a total of 86 million domestic cats, according to a 2012 survey.

Scientist David Winter said cats are indeed a problem in New Zealand, having contributed to the extinction of at least half a dozen New Zealand bird species.