A search was suspended yesterday for a nine-year-old boy taken by a 4m-long crocodile in northern Australia, which police said was being fed by the local community.
The child was swimming with a group of people at an Aboriginal community near Port Bradshaw, 80km south of the town of Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory, on Saturday when he was grabbed.
Adults threw spears at the animal, but it responded by dragging the boy into deeper water and no sign has been seen of him since.
It was the second recent attack on a child after a seven-year-old girl went missing while swimming with her family last month, also in Australia’s north. A hunt resulted in a crocodile being shot and human remains were found inside it.
Northern Territory police said that in the latest incident the crocodile had lived side by side with the Nhulunbuy community for many years.
“The croc was believed to be very old and the community had interacted with it in the past,” a police spokesman said.
“From time to time they threw it food, or left fish carcasses out. Not a wise move,” he said.
“Our local officer in Nhulunbuy said the croc had been known to the community for 20 years,” the spokesman added.
Later yesterday police said their search, which involved local rangers and volunteers, had been called off.
“While there were initial sightings of the crocodile believed to be responsible for the attack, no further sightings have been confirmed over the last two days,” Superintendent Michael White said.
“This is a tragic outcome for the tiny community and reinforces the threats people face in top end waterways,” White said.
Saltwater crocodiles, which can grow up to 7m long and weigh more than a tonne, are a common feature of Australia’s tropical north.
They have been protected since the 1970s and their numbers have increased steadily since, along with the number of human encounters.