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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 21:14 GMT 22:14 UK
Snapper warning issued to village
Caimans originate from the Caiman Islands and Central America
A crocodile which was spotted in a village pond in Cornwall is probably an unwanted pet, according to an expert.

Stacey Clayton spotted the 2ft (61cm) caiman on Saturday at St Andrew's pond in St Blazey.

The animal has not been found, but the RSPCA believes it could be hiding in nearby marshland and has warned local people to be careful in the area.

A reptile expert from Newquay Zoo believes the caiman could be an unwanted pet which has been dumped.

It's certainly not going to attack or chase a human being, but if you tried to get hold of it, it could bite you
John Meek, Newquay Zoo

Ms Clayton said: "I noticed this big log bopping up and down in the water, but as I got closer to it, it blinked and I could see its eyes.

"I wasn't sure whether it was alive or not so I threw a small stone near it and as it moved I could see it was a caiman - about 2ft long - so I dashed home and called the RSPCA."

Caimans originate from the Cayman Islands and Central America, so the animal charity said it is possible the creature may already have died from the cold.

John Meek, a reptile expert from Newquay Zoo, told BBC News the recent fine weather could be in the crocodile's favour.

He said: "It would possibly still be alive on a lovely hot sunny day like today, but with the cold evenings coming in, it's not going to last very long."

Caimans can grow up to 9ft (2.7m), but Mr Meek said a small caiman should not pose much of a threat.

"At the moment it's not too dangerous at all - again because of the temperature, it's not going to get lively enough.

"It's certainly not going to attack or chase a human being, but if you tried to get hold of it, it could bite you."

Growing problem

Ch Insp Rob Skinner said Ms Clayton may have make an honest mistake, but the RSPCA believes it is a genuine report.

He said: "Caiman have sharp teeth and could give a nasty bite, so if people do see this creature they should leave it alone and notify us immediately."

The RSPCA said the incident highlighted the growing problem of people keeping exotic animals with little or no knowledge of the specialist care and attention they require.

The society has rescued more than 40 alligators and crocodiles since 2000.

Caimans are covered by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, but there are currently no licensed caimans in Cornwall.

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