|During a recent trip to the Kimberleys in the far north of Western Australia I fell in love with a magnificent 'white crocodile.'
He was being held in a small enclosure at the Wyndam Crocodile Farm when Wes and I decided we'd love to take him back to Australia Zoo where we could house him in our brand new 5 star resort-style crocodile accommodation now known as the 'Triple Crocs.' He was so strikingly coloured we figured that the beauty and rarity of a white crocodile would be an excellent addition to Australia Zoo's world-leading crocodile demonstrations and shows. Crikey! We were right - he goes off!
Logistically, this was a very difficult croc capture, as the Kimberleys are one of Australia's remotest areas and also hold records for the hottest region in the country. Croc logistics is my business so myself, Wes and the Australia Zoo team worked out how to get a ton of croc and crate from the Kimberleys to Darwin Airport, which was the nearest airport to handle our precious cargo.
(Click photos to enlarge)
Wes located an old ex-WW2 DC3 in Darwin. This beautiful
old bird had a couple of mechanical problems that
were overcome so she could do the job.
Australia Zoo is on Queensland's Sunshine Coast so Terri, Bindi, Wes, Brian and I had to fly across to Darwin the night before the capture. We had to leave Darwin Airport very, very early in the morning to reach Wyndam by daylight. The critical reason for our arrival at sunrise was because it was so hot by 8:00am that capturing and transporting the crocodile would heat stress him and us.
Terri, Bindi and I with our welcoming party. Great
people in a great part of the world. There's
not too many people who love a place that's
40°C by 8:00am, but these locals sure do.
Don, the owner of the facility, took us straight to his enclosure and helped us get the crate in and get set up. He also warned us that this croc was savage, an absolute killer, the most violent crocodile he's seen and anything that goes in there never comes out alive; which apparently included pool scoops, rakes and fencing. Well, he certainly stood up to his reputation!
As soon as I got in his enclosure he attacked me
with massive strikes, pushing around a lot of water.
As you can see, I'm ready to launch out of his
way if he strikes vertically.
Unfortunately, I had absolutely no time to find a really long stick to secure a top jaw rope on this very agitated croc and there was no bamboo. I had to resort to using a pool pole to get the lassos over his top jaw.
My first attempt at getting two 12mm top jaw ropes
on him failed; he attacked then retreated.
His aggression was astounding and it sure made top jaw-roping him exciting, but unfortunately just as I predicted he bit the pool pole off and it was caught in his mouth under the ropes!
Crikey, he put up a huge fight as we utilised my pull-through technique. Wes and Brian used every ounce of their strength to try and pull him into the crate.
Wes and Briano take up the weight on the ropes.
As he positioned for a death roll he tucked his
feet up, which gave Wes and Briano a slight advantage.
As soon as his head was in the crate, only then was
I able to jump down and push while they pulled.
We were definitely gaining on him.
Have a look at how red Wes and Briano are in the face.
They pulled so hard that their poofoo valves nearly blew.
I'm pushing in the last part of his almighty tail.
Bolting the end of the crate on whilst the boys held firm.
Although it was still only early morning, the heat and humidity were stifling. We had never sweated so much at 7am in our lives, so we knew it was a race against the sun to get the poor old croc, already stressed from the capture, back to our DC3.
Luckily we were able to back Don's 4WD right up to the
We slid it straight on and took off for the plane.
Then we simply slid it straight into our DC3,
locked it down and took off.
Once we were airborne we were relaxed in the knowledge that the heat didn't beat us. Crocodiles travel exceptionally well in their specially-designed crates and during the flight he never moved. Our flight time to Darwin Airport was only a couple of hours and the old war veteran DC3 is an incredible aircraft. It was a great flight.
On arrival in Darwin the Qantas crew were right there and waiting; their handling of our very precious cargo was outstanding. I can't thank Qantas enough for helping us - they scheduled so one of their big 767s was in Darwin to handle the load, and they looked after our croc like he was the Crown Jewels.
Six hours back to Brisbane Airport, where once again Qantas got him into the Australia Zoo vehicle 'smooth as a zipper'. Another hour by road to Australia Zoo and our crew carried him across to his brand new abode.
Frank and I lifting him off the truck.
The Team and I lifting him over the double fencing
and into his new resort-style home.
Despite his fearsome reputation and his intimidating fight when we captured him, I decided to give him the option of having a drop-dead-gorgeous mate. Crocodiles being highly territorial, I thought the best chance we had of this big angry bloke striking up a loving relationship with a sheila, was to put Toolakea in his pond a couple of days earlier. Toolakea is gorgeous, very independent, mature and ready to start a family. We were all really nervous about matching them up, in fact we are always really nervous matching any/all of the crocs up, because if the male wants to he can kill the female within seconds. It's a very unfortunate risk we have to take but so, so, so beautiful when it works. Just like us, when crocs find their soul mates they love each other forever.
As soon as I grabbed him by the tail he came out.
Notice Toolakea on the bottom of the pond;
she's not sure what's going on.
I showed him where the water was, as often they're
confused when they first come out of the crate.
Toolakea's still wondering.
Generally, crocodiles come out of our crocodile crates with a lot of energy but quite often if they've been in there for over an hour they're confused. It's my job to make sure they know where the water is, and generally they'll slip straight into it. Not this bloke; he preferred to test the fences, which meant I had to physically pull him back by the tail and trick him into the water with his own aggression.
I have to turn him around to get him into the water.
Grab a croc by the tail and see what happens!
Sure enough he bit at me straight towards his new pond.
Well, not quite - Toolakea bit him as soon as he went over to her - big mistake! He retaliated by breaking her leg.
GO, GO, GO! We immediately flew to her defence, we were all ready for it and sure enough we got her out in an instant or he would've killed her.
The remarkable thing with crocs is how they heal. If left alone, they'll recover from hideous injuries. As an example, I recently caught a huge crocodile that had three legs completely ripped off and part of its tail removed. It was healed and doing exceptionally well; in fact he was very popular with the girl crocs for some reason. The only other animals I've seen that can tolerate such injuries are insects.
This has to be one of the reasons why these incredible animals survived when dinosaurs went extinct.
Great news; I found the end of the pole and cut-offs
from the ropes spat out inside the crate.
Now we had to come up with a name for the most spectacular-looking crocodile we'd ever seen. It was easy - Casper; although he's still not even remotely friendly like his ghostly namesake.
Casper is leucistic (lacks the melanin pigment) - it is actually more rare than albinism. Approximately one in 10 000 animals are leucistic, and unlike albinos they don't have the sensitive, unique pink eyes.
We absolutely love our big boy Casper. He's nearly 12ft long and to this day remains very, very aggressive - Mate, he is a snappy croc, so his all-time favourite is attacking the croc team during the daily croc shows.
Steve feeding Casper
Casper lunging during a demo
We Love you Casper.
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