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Hong Kong Invites 'Crocodile Dundee' to Capture Stray Reptile - 2003-11-11

A crocodile that has repeatedly eluded wildlife officials in Hong Kong faces capture by a renowned crocodile hunter from Australia, dubbed the real life "Crocodile Dundee".

All week, television stations have been running footage of a 1.2 meter crocodile, which has made its home in an open storm drain in a crowded suburb in the New Territories section of Hong Kong.

Sunning itself on the muddy banks and then slipping back into the notoriously polluted water, the reptile has so far avoided capture by wildlife officials, much to the embarrassment of Hong Kong's government.

The wildlife experts first tried to sedate the animal. No luck. They then employed a complicated system of nets, ropes and blankets, all to no avail.

The third and final attempt, using a large, baited, cage-like trap, was mocked by the media when the crocodile successfully feasted on the bait inside the trap, without triggering the door shut.

No one knows exactly where the crocodile came from, crocs are not native to Hong Kong. Some speculate it escaped from a farm in mainland China and made its way across the swampy border to Hong Kong. Others think it is an abandoned pet.

Admitting defeat, Hong Kong's government said it would take up an offer by Australian crocodile expert John Lever, who is often referred to as the real life "Crocodile Dundee," after the fictional movie character from Australia, to orchestrate the creature's capture. Thomas Chan, the head of Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, says he hopes John Lever will be able to bring this drama to an end.

Seizing the opportunity for publicity, enterprising media organizations, hotels and airlines have come forward offering to sponsor the crocodile expert's trip to Hong Kong.

Local taxpayers may be let off the hook, but Mr. Lever says the croc will not.

The Australian has bragged that he can capture the critter in a single swoop - with his bare hands.