October 6, 2008

Bloodbath As Boy Feeds Zoo Reptiles to Crocodile

By Kathy Marks

Rare Australian animals perish after seven-year-old goes on killing spree

STAFF AT a popular zoo in central Australia were in shock after a seven-year-old boy broke in overnight, bludgeoned a range of animals to death, and fed them to the resident crocodile, Terry.

The boy also hurled a number of live creatures into the crocodile's enclosure, where they too, were consumed. The 30-minute killing spree was captured by security cameras, which showed the boy smiling during his rampage.

More than a dozen residents of the Alice Springs Reptile Centre were fed to Terry, including a 20-year-old, 6ft (1.8m) female Spencer's goanna, which was much loved by zoo staff.

Other victims, many of them rare or mature, and difficult to replace, included a turtle, four western blue-tongued lizards, two bearded dragons and two thorny devil lizards.

Police identified the boy, who lives locally, from the security footage, but said they were unable to lay charges because of his age. The reptile centre's director, Rex Neindorf, described his actions as "unbelievable", and said he was considering suing his parents.

The footage shows the barefoot boy, wearing shorts and a T- shirt, climbing over the zoo's fence on Wednesday morning, evading sensor alarms possibly because of his size. He is seen throwing live lizards into the crocodile's enclosure, bashing others to death with a rock, and smashing a turtle the size of a dinner plate on a concrete pathway.

He then jumps into the goanna pit and is next seen dragging a dead goanna towards the crocodile pen, which is protected by two fences. The goanna's mate survived. The 13 animals killed were worth about $7,000 (3,000).

The security film includes graphic scenes of Terry, an 11ft, 440lb (200kg) saltwater crocodile, and one of the zoo's main attractions, eating the reptiles. According to Mr Neindorf, the boy is mainly "blank-faced". He added: "We're horrified that anyone can do this, and saddened by the age of the child."

Mr Neindorf said the boy could easily have been taken by the crocodile himself, as he fed him from a small landing near his enclosure.

He told ABC Radio: "We had to trawl through the video footage for the police, and we had to watch our animals being thrown in, and some the kid had killed and then threw in, and others were thrown in live."

Staff made the gruesome discovery after one of them heard a noise in the crocodile pond. "The crocodile was actually eating one of the animals," Mr Neindorf said.

Police cautioned the boy. Senior Sergeant Graeme Farquharson said: "The whole incident's fairly shameful, vicious, nasty and cruel." He said the boy was "under the radar" in terms of criminal responsibility, as children under 10 in the Northern Territory cannot be held liable for their actions.

"Responsibility has got to lie with the family," Mr Farquharson said. "I have no idea why a seven-year-old should be running around without any parental supervision."

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