Nile crocodile, a man-eater, discovered in Florida
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on May 24, 2016 at 2:25 AM, updated May 24, 2016 at 2:29 AM
MIAMI, Florida — Researchers believe four crocodiles found in the state are Nile crocodiles, an invasive species that can grow up to 21 feet long and weigh up to 1 1/2 tons.
The four suspected Nile crocodiles were discovered in South Miami-Dade county since 2009, the Christian Science Monitor reports.
Some researchers believe more of the crocodiles could be living in Florida, and they pose a threat to larger animals. CSM reports the Nile crocodile is known for its aggressive behavior, with 480 attacks on humans in Africa between 2010 and 2014; 123 of the attacks were fatal.
"These guys want to eat the biggest thing they can because they're the biggest and the baddest animal on the planet," Zack Murphy, an alligator handler in Florida, tells nbc-2.com.
How did they get to Florida? The New York Times reports they were probably brought from South Africa as pets or for zoo displays. CSM reports the animals escaped from a facility called Predator World.
According to the Times, one of the crocodiles was a hatchling found on the porch of a residence. Another was found in a private zoo, and a third was found in a public park.
The fourth, a 3-foot-long female, was trapped in a canal and was tagged and released in 2012. It was found again two years later and grown to over 5 1/2 feet long.
A researcher tells the Times there's no evidence the crocodiles are reproducing, but he added it is "not a good thing" that it's been introduced into the Florida wilderness.
"My hope as a biologist is that the introduction of Nile crocodiles in Florida opens everyone's eyes to the problem of invasive species that we have here in our state," Kenneth Krysko of the Florida Museum of Natural History said in a statement, according to CSM. "Now here's another one, but this time it isn't just a tiny house gecko from Africa."
Officials with the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission tell the Washington Post they believe all of the crocodiles are accounted for and they don't believe it will become a problem.