Swimmers have been banned from all beaches in Phuket until authorities catch a crocodile that has been making appearances along the coast.
The elusive animal has been spotted several times on beaches in the Thai resort island but has so far managed to evade capture.
A group of hunters has been added to the team to catch the reptile.
Thawee Thongcha, the mayor of Karon town on Phuket’s west coast, said: “We almost caught it when it was seen near the beach in Karon, [we were] metres away but it moved quickly back to the sea.
“We do not yet know where it comes from.”
The swimming ban comes as Thailand prepares to announce crocodile registration measures, to keep in line with the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act.
Governor Norraphat Plodthong said all five crocodile farms in Phuket have been checked, and no reptile has been lost in any of them – leading authorities to believe it could have been released from an unregistered source.
“We will have a better idea where the crocodile is from when we catch it,” he added.
“Swimmers have been banned on every beach until the crocodile is caught.”
He also told the local newspaper Thaiger that the best guess is that the crocodile is about 1.5m long (4.9ft) and is not as fierce or dangerous as others.
Mr Thawee added the monsoon season has made it harder for fisherman to catch the crocodile.
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist and lecturer at Kasetsart University, said the crocodile could be a hybrid saltwater version of the species bred on a farm.
He said: “Normally the open sea is not a place where a crocodile would live.”
The last reported sightings of the crocodile were on Monday.