Reptiles on the run after crocodile park break-in

Photo: ABC

Photo: ABC

Authorities are investigating the theft or escape of at least half a dozen juvenile crocodiles in Broome, with one animal found in a swimming pool, another run over by a car, and several still on the loose.

The local crocodile park said most of the animals appeared to have been stolen during a break-in over the weekend.

The first animal to be reported missing was a 20-centimetre juvenile, found by a local on the Cable Beach foreshore, and carried to a waterfront cafe.

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Kelin Kamenjuk was on shift as duty manager at the time.

“We were just making coffees and serving customers, and this gentleman came up to our takeaway area with a little tiny crocodile in his hand,” she said.

“He’d found it somewhere on the beach, and he came up to ask for a bucket from us so he could take it to the wilderness park.

“It looked like tiny crocodiles do … like a miniature version of a big one. He was a little bit vicious, and it did make us wonder – where is the mum and dad?”

Another local then reported seeing a small, dead crocodile at the Cable Beach car park, that appeared to have been run over by a vehicle.

Attention turns to local crocodile park

The discoveries came as a surprise, as crocodiles do not breed or nest in the area, preferring sheltered estuarine areas rather than exposed beachfronts.

So attention turned to the old Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park, located just a couple of hundred metres back from the beach.

Photo: ABC

While this juvenile has been recovered, many others are still wandering around Cable Beach. Photo: Joshua Spong/ABC

It has been closed to tourists for several years, but is still home to hundreds of crocodiles, many of them hatchlings.

Malcolm Douglas’ widow Valerie said the animals were stolen during a weekend break-in and then set free.

“Every hatchling is potentially worth $1000 in earnings, future earnings, so I’ve just lost thousands of dollars worth of property,” she said.

“It’s theft, it’s breaking and entering, and it’s trespassing, and all of those things can be prosecuted for, so if anyone knows who did this, please let me know.”

The break-ins could have implications for Ms Douglas’ licence, as the Wildlife Conservation Act set down requirements for crocodiles to be adequately secured.

The Department of Parks and Wildlife has confirmed it is investigating the incident, and in a written statement said it would be “monitoring the park’s crocodile security compliance”.

The vast Cable Beach property has been shut to the public for several years, following the death of the well-known television adventurer Malcolm Douglas.

While tours now run at the family’s wilderness park, 20 kilometres east of Broome, the original beachfront property is still used to house breeder crocodiles.

Mystery surrounds larger crocodile

Ms Douglas said she was furious at the number of people caught jumping the fence in recent years, and would be installing CCTV and extra barbed wire.

“My licence can be revoked at any time, and if it’s shown I’m not looking after the animals properly, then I don’t have a business,” she said.

“So every animal that’s either taken or tampered with from this property, is a burden on my business.”

But a reptilian mystery remains – how a slightly bigger crocodile found its way into a backyard pool at an adjoining property.

The 40-centimetre animal was discovered by a pool man who was doing routine maintenance at a house that backs onto the crocodile park, within hours of the smaller animals being found near the beach.

Ms Douglas said the animal’s age did not match up with any of the generations of hatchlings that are being raised at the Cable Beach property.

Parks and Wildlife is investigating where the animal may have come from.


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