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Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 08:44 GMT 09:44 UK
Battle to save starving crocodiles
A man pulls a crocodile out of the water while another tries to hit it on the head
The crocodiles are culled for their skins
By South American correspondent Tom Gibb

Conservationists say thousands of crocodiles in the South American country of Paraguay are dying because a major river that irrigated their swamplands has been diverted for agricultural use.

More than 10,000 South America crocodiles, known as Yacares, are now starving to death, or being entombed in the mud as the lakes dry up, experts say.

The lakes and swamps along the border of Paraguay and Argentina used to be flooded with the waters of the river Pilcomayo, which runs from the snows of the Andes.

But since 1996, the floods have not arrived and the water has instead been diverted off for irrigation in Argentina.

Numbers of the crocodiles, which are an endangered species, had been increasing before this disaster.

But landowners say that now more than 40 or 50 of the creatures are dying every day on their farms.

Clubbed to death

The Paraguayan authorities, arguing the animals will die anyway, have ordered a massive cull.

The killing is done at night when the crocodiles are hibernating in the cold, otherwise it would be far to dangerous.

The animals can grow up to two and a half metres in length.

The crocodiles are speared and then hauled to the surface to be clubbed to death.

Afterwards they are skinned and their hides used for leather.

The idea is that by killing the larger animals they may be able to save the rest.

However, that depends on the waters of the river being diverted back to once again flood the region, and at present there is no sign of that happening.

See also:

07 Feb 01 | Africa
Malawi curbs crocodile menace
25 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Snap! It's the conjoined crocodiles
05 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Vietnam flood victims face crocs threat
19 Dec 00 | Africa
Gambia's sacred crocodile pool
28 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
Growing threat to rare species
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Paraguay
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