Sat, Jun 12, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Hong Kong's captive celebrity crocodile refusing food

AP , HONG KONG

Hong Kong's celebrity crocodile -- snared this week after seven months on the run -- is apparently stunned by its captivity and has refused to eat since it was caught, a wildlife official said yesterday.

The croc, who was first spotted in a muddy creek last November, gained celebrity status here by avoiding persistent attempts at capture with dart guns, harpoons and traps set by expert crocodile hunters from across the region.

The reptile finally walked into a snare in the creek on Thursday morning. It was later transferred to an animal center where it has seemed frightened and has refused to eat, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Director Thomas Chan (陳鎮源) said.

Veterinarians plan to feed the croc, which they estimate is four years old, with medicine instead, he said, without naming the treatment.

On Thursday, government vet Eric Tai (戴慶豐) said the animal was healthy and had no apparent injuries.

Experts have yet to determine the reptile's gender, Tai said, but added that they suspected it was a "baby girl."

Idy Wong (王麗賢), a spokeswoman for the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden research institute, said crocs can skip meals for as long as six months if they have eaten a lot previously and have enough fat to burn. But she said the Hong Kong croc was probably too stressed to eat.

Authorities spent around HK$300,000 (US$38,000) in their efforts to catch the croc, government spokesman Donald Lam said.

Though the croc was small -- just 1.5m long and weighing 14kg -- officials had been concerned that it would grow and become a public danger. Even so, this rare visitor won the hearts of Hong Kong's urbanites who are more likely to spot crocs on nature TV shows or as material for designer handbags and shoes. Some locals called it "Gucci" after the Italian designer brand, and one radio station named it "personality of the year."

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