A reptile wrangler has described the ‘mind-blowing’ moment he discovered a 1m freshwater crocodile in the backyard of a Central Coast home – some 2500km from its native territory.
Australian Reptile Park operations manager and crocodile handler Billy Collett got the unexpected call the reptile was lounging in the back garden of a family’s Umina home just as they were preparing for their regular croc show.
The pair travelled from the park in Somersby, near Gosford, to rescue the crocodile, who was “cold and probably a bit scared”.
“It was absolutely mind-blowing,” Mr Collet said.
“(It was) actually a really quiet and well cared-for little crocodile.
“We quickly grabbed her and brought her back to the park where she has settled in well.”
Australian Reptile Park operations manager and crocodile handler Billy Collett helped rescue a loose, metre-long crocodile from a Umina home. Picture: Australian Reptile Park
Mr Collett said he believed the freshwater crocodile was likely being kept illegally as a pet before it escaped.
Measuring more than 2.5m when fully grown, the species is native to the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia, but not NSW.
For staff at the popular reptile park, the alarming find of a reptile loose in suburbia isn’t a first.
Staff previously rescued a saltwater crocodile from a property in Sydney more than a decade ago.
Council workers on the Central Coast recently discovered an American snapping turtle which is now on show at the park.
Freshwater crocodiles are native to the NT, Queensland and WA – thousands of kilometres from where it was found by the Reptile Park employees. Picture: Australian Reptile Park
Mr Collett warned anyone keeping crocodiles and other wild reptiles as pets that it was dangerous and illegal.
“Keeping something like (a crocodile) in your backyard is challenging – it’s a tropical species – and dangerous,” he said.
“We urge people to do what they are licenced to. In NSW, you can keep reptiles which are more appropriate, like lizards.”
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The crocodile will remain at the wildlife park before it is assessed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
After that, the crocodile could be returned to its native habitat in the NT.