Mon, Nov 10, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Crocodile eludes HK authorities

AP , HONG KONG

A crocodile on the loose has Hong Kong officials at wit's end after a weeklong hunt in which the animal slipped unscathed from a trap -- and critics said yesterday it's time to bring in the professionals.

The elusive croc has become a running source of amusement in Hong Kong, with newspapers providing frequent updates on failed attempts to catch the 1.2m beast.

Officials armed with tranquilizer darts approached the croc in a suburban marsh on Monday, but scared it away. So they switched to cage traps baited with chicken.

The Apple Daily newspaper yesterday ran a photo of the reptile poking its snout out of the water and toying with the bait in one cage.

"Croc plays conservation department like a fool," the headline read.

"The dithering must stop. Bring on the experts," the South China Morning Post said yesterday in an editorial, which called Hong Kong's efforts "comical."

The government has consulted with professional hunters and is considering hiring one, said spokeswoman Viola Kwan of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific offered to fly in Australian croc expert John Lever, while the Shangri-La Hotel has volunteered to house him, the report said.

The Post report said Lever has offered to work for free.

"I would just walk in and grab it," he was quoted as saying.

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