TORONTO — More than 150 crocodiles and alligators have been rescued from a Toronto home and taken to a reptile sanctuary.
The Indian River Reptile Zoo, located east of Peterborough, Ont., said the homeowners approached the sanctuary about a year ago when the reptiles began outgrowing the enclosures in which they were kept.
“They told me the number and I was like, ’Yeah right.’ So I went down and had a look, and sure enough it was true,” zoo founder Bry Loyst said.
Loyst said the married couple handed over the crocodiles along with some money, which the sanctuary used to expand its crocodile rescue building.
The voluntary surrender was the best possible outcome for the reptiles, he said, since people illegally keeping exotic pets typically sell or abandon the animals when they realize they can no longer take care of them.
It took the sanctuary more than 20 volunteers and four days last week to remove the reptiles from the home and transport them by truck to the facility.
Loyst said the ages of the crocodiles are unknown, but they range in size from 1.2 to 3.3 metres long. The animals were all healthy and did not need veterinary care.
He said he’s unsure how the couple obtained the reptiles, where they came from or how they took care of them.
“They did the right thing by donating them to a better place,” he said. “We don’t question or yell or scream at them or say, ’You’re stupid for buying an alligator, let alone 150 of them.”
The sanctuary will open the crocodile building to the public next summer for viewing, but Loyst said the facility’s highest priority now is ensuring the crocodiles stay healthy and don’t become too agitated about the recent move or changes to their surroundings.
Crocodiles can die from buildups of acid in their bloodstreams as a result of stress, he said.
“They’re so scared. They’re not used to being able to get away,” Loyst said. “Soon they’ll calm down and relax and realize, ’When I see someone, they’re not coming in to try and touch me or hurt me.”’
Toronto bylaws list crocodiles and alligators as prohibited animals. A spokeswoman for the city said Toronto Animal Services received no complaints about the reptiles so no investigation will be launched.