Reptile experts called in to locate alligator in Newcastle park

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A jog around Heaton Park pond in Newcastle upon Tyne carried something of the peril of a trip around the Louisiana Swamps on Tuesday. Police were investigating reports of a strange rustling in the reeds.

A jog around Heaton Park pond in Newcastle upon Tyne carried something of the peril of a trip around the Louisiana Swamps on Tuesday. Police were investigating reports of a strange rustling in the reeds.

Visitors to the park are convinced they have seen a 6ft alligator lurking beneath the water. Officers were understandably sceptical at first but, after continued sightings, have called in reptile experts who believe they may be looking for a spectacled caiman alligator, found primarily in South America but sold widely in the exotic pet trade.

The Reptile Trust, based at Burnopfield, Co Durham, which has scoured the park atnight, is basing its suggestion on the public's descriptions of the creature. Naturally the trust advises locals not to tackle any new inhabitant of the pond. "We are taking these reports very seriously and we would urge anyone who sees this crocodile or alligator to contact us straight away and not to approach it themselves," said Peter Heathcote, the director of the trust.

The apparent carelessness of some north-east alligator owners has heightened the trust's anxieties. Last summer, three small alligators were brought to the trust after they were found across Tyneside. One had been abandoned in a cardboard box outside the Tynemouth Sealife Centre just as a group of girl guides was due to visit. All three creatures were 3ft long but the new 6ft specimen may belong to the same batch and have grown.

"If someone was daft enough to leave one in a cardboard box last year, this one might have been dumped by its owners," Mr Heathcote said. "We have a team down at the park on standby in case there is another sighting. If someone has lost a very large reptile it would help if they got in touch with us." The trust's resources include an "animal ambulance" capable of holding a 10ft crocodile.

PC Paul Henry, a Northumbria Police wildlife liaison officer, insisted joggers were not at risk from the reptile.

Comments