Natuurhulpcentrum, Associated Press
In this handout photo released by the Natuurhulpcentrum Opglabbeek, a Nile crocodile is held by a center employee in Opglabbeek, Belgium on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011. During a Belgian tax investigation Belgian police found 11 Nile crocodiles and an alligator hidden in a villa. The villa's owner, a 51-year-old German man, is in police custody and has been charged with animal neglect.

BRUSSELS — Police carrying out a search discovered 11 Nile crocodiles — five of them squeezed into a small shower — and an alligator at a house in northern Belgian.

Police were searching the villa of a German man suspected of fraud in the village of Lapscheure Thursday when they came across the reptiles, said Frederik Thoelen, a biologist at the Nature Rescue Center where they are now being kept.

Five of the crocodiles were found squeezed into a small, dirty shower; five others were kept in an aquarium made for only two, Thoelen on Friday. The alligator, meanwhile, was rolled up in several blankets.

"They were really kept in horrible conditions," said Thoelen.

He said the owner told them the crocodiles were about 5 years old, but they were far too small for their age, most likely because of their restrictive caging and insufficient food. Instead of measuring more than two meters (6 feet), the newcomers at the rescue center in Opglabbeek, eastern Belgium, have grown only to a little over one meter (3 feet).

But things are bound to get better for the 12 reptiles, once they get released from the rescue center's intensive care unit.

The owner gave up his rights to the animals once it became clear that he did not have the necessary papers, said Thoelen. "That is very good news because now we can look for a new place for the animals," he said.

An animal shelter in Germany, which has more experience with reptiles, has already expressed some interest, but for the coming weeks, they will stay in Opglabbeek, said Thoelen.

The biologists at the center have already started preparations for new living quarters — water pool and underfloor heating included.

And they will be fed with chicken carcasses from the nearby slaughterhouse.

Thoelen said the animals most likely won't get a special treat for Christmas, because, "they got their biggest present yesterday" when they were rescued.