Australia reprieves 'killer' crocodile

SYDNEY - Australia's latest killer crocodile will take up residence in a Queensland crocodile farm next week. The 10ft-long female crocodile is said to be the one which mauled Cassey Bond, a father of seven, to death in front of his family a fortnight ago, writes Robert Miliken.

Bond's death has brought home to Australians how the tide has finally turned in the confrontation between crocodiles and humans. In recent years, the number of fatal crocodile attacks on people has risen rapidly, reversing a 25-year pattern which saw the saltwater crocodile hunted almost to extinction.

Bond is believed to be the 13th person to be killed by a crocodile in the past 15 years in the mangrove swamps and tidal rivers stretching across Australia's vast tropical north. At least as many people again have been attacked but lived to tell the tale.

Up to 20 years ago, crocodile attacks were unheard of in Australia, because the animals had almost been wiped out after decades of killings by commercial hunters and casual shooters. After pressure from conservationists, crocodiles were made a protected species, and their numbers have increased to about 80,000 in the wild and more in commercial farms.

Cassey Bond was different from most other victims, some of whom were ignorant outsiders. He lived in crocodile country - in an Aboriginal community in Cape York Peninsula, Queensland. On Christmas Eve, the Bonds drove to Jardine River to meet relatives. When the car ferry over the river broke down, Bond waded across twice to help the others. He was attacked the second time.

Rangers last week caught a crocodile which they identified as the killer by matching its teeth with wounds on Bond's body. His family are unconvinced, and unhappy at the decision to put the crocodile in a farm where its eggs will be used for breeding.