updated 4/1/2008 5:34:42 PM ET 2008-04-01T21:34:42

Hunters invaded an environmental reserve in northern Brazil and slaughtered more than 700 alligators for their meat, officials said Tuesday.

Environmental agents discovered 8 tons of alligator meat on several barges during a routine investigation into illegal logging activities on Monday, said Aldenira Queiroz, a top official with the environmental protection agency for Amazonas state.

Inspectors did not arrest the four men caught transporting the meat because they do not have police power, but prosecutors could eventually charge them with crimes against the environment, Queiroz said.

Authorities believe the hunters killed 740 alligators on the 2.5 million-acre Piagacu-purus reserve.

Queiroz said the skins of the slaughtered animals apparently were dumped into rivers.

If health inspectors determine the meat is fit for human consumption, it will be donated to hospitals, schools and charities, she said. If not, it will be incinerated.

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