Flood Freed Gators in Rio Neighborhood. Officials Said It Was Too Dangerous to Help.

Flood Freed Gators in Rio Neighborhood. Officials Said It Was Too Dangerous to Help.

Several people in her community did lose everything, and are sleeping in a local church, relying on donations to eat, she said.

“It’s complete chaos here,” she said. “We are really scared, we don’t know how to defend ourselves. These wild animals are totally free now, they could attack us. We don’t know if they’re hungry, what their reaction will be if we see them.”

She dismissed the government’s explanation for why officials did not enter the favela, saying that the mayor himself had been there this year, making promises to improve their lives. Others echoed her on social media, poking fun at the city officials’ excuse that the neighborhood was too dangerous to enter.

“Only if the criminals are on boats,” a Facebook user named Vinícius Melo Abade wrote beneath a post on the floods.

“Only if the crocodiles themselves are armed,” wrote another user, Aline Taylor

Ricardo Freitas, a local biologist who has been studying crocodilians in Rio de Janeiro State for 17 years, was not surprised by the existence of a caiman farm inside a favela. People illegally breed caimans across the city to sell to restaurants, he said.

He also suggested that criminals sometimes use the animals to scare kidnapping victims, though there is no evidence that was the case in Favela da Rola.

Mr. Freitas, who dedicates some of his time to rescuing caimans, said that the creatures do not prey on people, but could eat pets. He said there are around 8,000 broad-snouted caimans, the most common species in Rio, in the city’s western zone.

“It sounds like movie stuff,” he said. “But it’s a surreal reality in Rio de Janeiro.”

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