Beaches along the English Channel have been reopened to swimmers amid reports that a suspected crocodile sighted close to busy beaches was in fact a piece of wood. The alarm was raised after French authorities received reports of a 12 foot long reptile apparently seen swimming around sailing boats in the French port of Boulogne-sur-Mer by two local men on Thursday. A local newspaper said further warnings were later received from other eye witnesses.
But on Saturday morning it was reported that the French Coastguard had confirmed the crocodile sightings had in fact been sparked by a floating piece of wood. BBC Radio 4's Today programme said it had been told "the alert was lifted when officials said it was a piece of wood". With thousands descending on the beaches during the Channel's high season, local officials said they decided to ban swimming just in case.
Police and fire brigade officials supported by the army carried out a wide-ranging search, broadcasting warnings in English and French to holidaymakers. A search of nearby zoos and amphibian centres for a missing crocodile was also launched. The elusive reptile was even dubbed Croc Monsieur after the French ham and cheese toastie. Wild crocodiles can grow to 25ft long and swim hundreds of miles.
Jeremie Marion, spokesman for the Opale animal welfare agency which coordinated the search, said that if a crocodile was in the English Channel it would be in great discomfort and therefore extremely dangerous. He added: "If there was a crocodile in the area he would not live for long, because an animal with cold blood needs a temperature of around 30 degrees." Earlier in the week beaches were shut in the south of France following a shark alert, but the creature turned out to be a dolphin.