BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian authorities discovered the slaughter of around 740 alligators in a nature reserve in the Amazon forest, a state official said on Tuesday.
Inspectors of the Amazon state's environmental protection agency IPAAM confiscated roughly eight tons of skinned and salted alligator corpses in the Piagacu-Purus reserve, some 190 miles west of the state capital Manaus.
"We were surprised and shocked," Aldenira Queiroz, an agency director, told Reuters by telephone from Manaus. "This indicates a large-scale commercial operation."
The meat was to be sold for human consumption in neighboring Para state, she said. It will now probably be incinerated.
The alligator skins, the most valuable part of the animal, were dumped in rivers, an IPAAM spokesman said.
Some environmentalists have said that the reserve is a favorite hunting ground for local politicians and wealthy businessmen.
Hunting alligators in Brazil is prohibited by federal law, even though some experts warn of overpopulation in certain areas.
(Reporting by Raymond Colitt, Editing by Sandra Maler)