A Thai man with a crocodile he killed north of Bangkok on Sunday. Thai farmers want their escaped reptiles back alive.
The best way to catch a crocodile, says Praiphan Thienthong, is with patience and electric shock. Mr. Praiphan, a crocodile catcher at Thailand's Department of Fisheries, is working overtime to help chase down more than 100 of the reptiles believed to have escaped from crocodile farms as Thailand's worst floods in half a century washed over their pens and swept them downstream to Bangkok's northern suburbs.
"You've got to keep shocking the crocodile until it falls unconscious," the 52-year-old Mr. Praiphan as he twitched his thick, black mustache and patted a six-foot-long crocodile that was trussed up on the floor of his flat-bottom motorboat, located about a 20-minute drive from the center of Bangkok. "This one was tough. It dove deep so we had to keep chasing it until we could give it a good zap."
"Otherwise you have to shoot it," he said, patting a handgun strapped at his side. "And we don't want to do that. We're here to save the crocodiles."
In Thailand's unfolding flood crisis, the crocodiles lend a dimension of fear to the already heavy toll on lives and livelihoods, and the threat of further destruction. Thailand's prime minister warned Tuesday that the capital, which until now has remained largely dry, is vulnerable if flood barriers don't hold.
Manifesting the uncertainty, animals of all kinds are competing with humans for patches of dry ground.
"This is the worst thing—knowing that there might be a crocodile or snake there waiting for you when you go back to check your home," said Patchara Promkaew, 43 years old, as she surveyed her flood-washed home from an embankment.
Crocodile reports have arrived alongside rumors of attacks, though no cases could be verified and authorities quickly dismissed such stories. Thailand's crocodiles, for the most part the freshwater Siamese variety, tend to be smaller and less aggressive than some of their saltwater counterparts.
In past centuries, crocodiles were plentiful and Thais grew accustomed to living side-by-side with them. Temples dedicated to crocodile spirits can be found around the country.
But over the past 30 years, Thailand's startling economic transformation has made the country more susceptible to flooding, while also leaving many of its residents less prepared to deal with unforeseen dangers of the wild.
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