West Bank settlement in bid to get rid of hundreds of crocodiles

West Bank settlement in bid to get rid of hundreds of crocodiles

Reptiles left behind after failed business venture fuelling safety fears for residents

A crocodile.
A crocodile.

An Israeli West Bank settlement is trying to get rid of hundreds of crocodiles left stranded there after a failed business venture.

The reptiles have been stranded at the farm in a remote spot in the Jordan Valley and occasional escapes have fuelled safety fears for residents and visitors alike.

The crocodiles were brought to the settlement of Petzael in the mid-1990s as a tourist attraction.

Ensuing Israeli-Palestinian violence kept visitors away, prompting the crocodiles’ purchase by entrepreneur Gadi Biton, who hoped to sell them for their skin.

But his venture flopped after Israel passed a law in 2012 defining the crocodile as a protected animal, and banning raising the animals for sale as meat or merchandise.

Multiple attempts to sell them abroad have failed.

“We found ourselves with hundreds of crocodiles in this farm that no one knows what to do with,” said David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council.

The reptiles, which can live well into their 70s, are also reproducing with their numbers expected to grow to the thousands in the coming years.

“I don’t want to think of what will happen if a crocodile manages to escape and reaches the Jordan River, and then we’ll have an international incident,” Mr Elhayani said.

“Maybe then someone will wake up and find a quick solution to this problem.”

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