Wednesday November 7, 2012

BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip -- It took an Internet search, shark nets and two weeks of floating in a sewage pond, but Gaza policemen said Tuesday that they have finally captured a crocodile that was terrifying residents.

The 5-foot-9-inch crocodile fled his zoo enclosure two years ago and crawled about a half a mile to a large sewage pit near the northern Gaza Strip town of Umm al-Naser, said Lt. Col. Samih al-Sultan, who led the hunt.

"He had a lot of spirit in him. He wanted to be free," al-Sultan said, watching the crocodile in its new home in a pond with four other crocodiles in a zoo under construction in nearby Beit Lahiya.

Wastewater workers discovered the crocodile in the pit about two months ago, al-Sultan said.

A team of six policemen and fishermen sat in a boat in the sewage pit for eight hours a day for two weeks, trying to catch the crocodile with the nets.

After several failed attempts, they drained the pond, leaving the croc with nowhere to hide. Then they used tougher shark nets to snare him.

Al-Sultan said he grew to like and respect the reptile. He named him "sakher," Arabic for "rock," in praise of his stubborn attempt to remain free.

The crocodile was brought drugged into blockaded Gaza through a smuggling tunnel under the Egypt-Gaza border four years ago, said zoo worker Emad al-Qanoua. It wasn’t clear how it managed to escape from the zoo in the first place.