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Tuesday, 9 May, 2000, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
'Sweet-tooth' crocs on the rampage
Crocodiles
The sugar factory bred crocodiles for hides and meat
By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre

A woman is still battling for her life in hospital after being attacked by a marauding crocodile in Malawi's central lakeshore district of Nkhota Kota.

"She had gone to the beach to collect water on Wednesday morning when she was attacked," said John Mlenga, an information officer in the district.

Mr Mlenga said the woman's arm had been savaged before she was rescued by passers by.

He said there has been an unprecedented increase in crocodile attacks in the district lately. He said in April alone there were eight attacks.

Sugar factory

People in the area suspect the increase in the population of crocodiles has come about because of a change in management at a sugar company in the district.


Crocodile
Crocodiles are subject to hunting restrictions
Dwangwa Sugar Corporation used to rear crocodiles on its estate. But when the company was sold to Illovo Sugar Group a few years, ago the new management decided to they did not need the crocs.

Illovo Sugar Corporation acting Human Resources Manager Dickens Chaula said the former management used to rear crocodiles for food and export.

"Crocodile meat was a delicacy among the expatriate community and the local community as well," he said.

Exports

Chaula said the tail of the crocodile was a must-have dish for the expatriates. He also said hides would be exported.

But he said that when the new management came in, it decided to stick to its main line of duty - sugar production.

The crocodiles were sold to a Zimbabwean farm. He said although the Zimbabwean farm is yet to collect them no crocodile has been offloaded into the lake.

"I should know since I am in charge of security here," he said when asked whether one or two must have strayed into the lake.

No longer endangered?

Meanwhile, in the south of the country - which has also seen an upsurge in crocodile attacks recently - there have been calls to relax the restrictions on the culling of the reptiles.

Environmental Affairs Minister Harry Thomson, who is the ruling United Democractic Front Member of Parliament for Chikwawa - one of the affected districts in the Lower Shire Valley - said the government would try to convince Cites that the crocodile population in Malawi is not endangered.

He said the government would not allow the lives of its citizens to be endangered.

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See also:

05 Nov 99 | Asia-Pacific
Crocodile influx threatens Australia
15 Jun 99 | Americas
Rare crocodile bites back
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