Authorities in Phuket are on the lookout for a three-metre-long crocodile that was spotted this week off Bang Tao Beach.
Insisting there was no cause for alarm, Governor Norapat Plodthong authorised the hunt on Wednesday.
Thalang district chief Wikrom Jakthee is in charge of scrutinising photos of the crocodile and all available information about it, while the provincial Fisheries Office and other agencies conduct a physical search.
Norapat asked the media to be cautious in their reporting to avoid panicking the public.
“Phuket has no crocodile farms, but nearby provinces do,” he said, suggesting the large reptile was an escapee or refugee.
He vowed that the croc would be swiftly captured, but urged residents and tourists to be careful.
After examining a photo published in the Phuket Gazette, marine biologist Thon Thamrongnawasawat said the animal is a saltwater crocodile, and not the first one seen off the Andaman shore. Another was observed near Mai Khao Beach in 2013.
The published photo was taken by an expatriate resident identified only as Mike, whose son also got a good look at the croc using a drone camera.
Thon said it was unlikely this crocodile would have emerged from the wild. It probably escaped from a croc farm or some other form of captivity.
He suggested that the authorities check with likely sources to see if any of their animals were missing. If it came from a crocodile farm, one this size ought to be carrying a microchip for ease of tracking.
But Thon said “it was time” for crocodile farms to be strictly checked to avoid problems.
Noting that the Andaman Sea has high waves at the moment, Thon said the crocodile was likely to shelter in shallow waters.
He suggested the authorities keep an eye on canals leading to the sea and on muddy Layan Beach during low tide, where it might rest and sunbathe.