Elusive HK croc lands in govt net

Associated Press

Hong Kong, June 10:

A small crocodile that gained celebrity status in Hong Kong by evading dart guns, harpoons and snares set by expert hunters from around the world finally wandered into a government trap today. Fishermen found the saltwater croc trapped in a steel noose this morning, and secured it in their nets, said Cheung Chi-sun, a wildlife protection officer from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. A live broadcast on Cable TV showed agriculture department officials in a boat moving the reptile - measuring about 1.5 metres long — from the creek. The croc was taken to an animal centre to be examined by government veterinarians, Cheung said.

Where it came from remains a mystery, although local media have speculated that it was an abandoned pet, or an escapee from a mainland Chinese crocodile farm. Though the croc was small, officials worried it could pose a threat to the public. Local media estimated the government spent about $26,000 in its efforts to catch the reptile. Not long after it was first sighted in November, radio callers elected it “Personality of the year.” Nicknamed “Gucci” — after the Italian designer — by local media, the beast avoided initial efforts to snare it by local officials, and later defeated crocodile experts from Australia and China. Australian John Lever — looking like a real-life Crocodile Dundee — boasted he would just “walk in and grab it,” after he flew to Hong Kong and tried his luck with a harpoon last year. He flew home empty-handed after a few weeks.

Another expert from mainland China, He Zhanzhao, also gave up the hunt soon after he started, as the reptile went into hibernation during Hong Kong’s cold winter months. While the hunters failed to get close to the elusive croc, photographers and TV cameramen had better luck capturing it on film. TV footage and front-page news often showed the crocodile — with wide-open jaws — sunbathing on top of traps or walking next to little egrets.