Underwatertimes.com News Service - January 25, 2006 00:00 EST

At least 12 crocodiles have starved to death at a Zimbabwe farm, while more than 250 have been rescued, the Herald newspaper said on Wednesday.

It said the reptiles were at a farm owned by the chief executive of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Karikoga Kaseke. The daily quoted workers at the farm as saying the crocodiles were last fed in December.

"The state of the four-year-old crocodiles, which were being kept in four dry ponds, is heart-rending with some showing signs of serious skin damage following lengthy exposure to the sun," the official newspaper said.

The Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and animal welfare group Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had rescued 258 crocodiles.

Kaseke told the Herald he had been offered the farm under President Robert Mugabe's government's controversial land reforms in November, but had not yet moved onto the property. He was not available for comment on Wednesday.

A Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesman said the government would be investigating the ownership of the farm.

Since 2000, the government has seized white-owned commercial land, including private wildlife sanctuaries, for black farmers but critics say some beneficiaries lack the necessary skills to undertake lucrative game farming business.