Special teams from the Thai Fishery Department have responded to numerous reports of reptilian menaces, like the 3-foot-long croc that Anchalee Wannawet saw sitting next to the outhouse one morning, its toothy jaw wide open.
"I ran away, and it ran into there," the 23-year-old said, pointing toward the reedy swamp behind the construction site where she works in Bangkok's northern Sai Mai district. "I haven't dared to go the bathroom since. I'm peeing in a can."
Thailand has long been a center for the breeding, exporting and trafficking of exotic animals, especially crocodiles. Farmed both legally and illegally, crocs are popular because of the value they fetch for their meat, bones and especially their skins, used to make luxury bags and accessories.
This year's record monsoon rains, which prompted Thailand's worst flooding in a half century and killed more than 600 people, also swamped some of the country's estimated 3,000 crocodile farms. Many of the reptiles escaped — though probably not as many as residents think they are seeing around the city.
"We get a lot of reports at the Fishery Department, but only about 5 to 10 percent of them turn out to be true," said Praphan Lipayakun, a fishery department official, adding that many false reports end up being large monitor lizards, which are generally shy and harmless.
"We even get reports of people being bitten, but when we follow up, we can't get in touch with the supposed patient, or when contacted, the doctor that treated the wound says that it in no way resembled a crocodile bite."
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