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Celebrity crocodile finallycaught in Hong Kong

A small crocodile that gained celebrity status in Hong Kong by evading capture for 6 months finally wandered into a trap Thursday.
Hong Kong workers carry the bagged crocodile Thursday. Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

A small crocodile that gained celebrity status in Hong Kong by evading dart guns, harpoons and snares set by expert hunters from around the world finally wandered into a trap on Thursday.

Fishermen found Gucci the saltwater croc -- first spotted in a swampy creek in November -- trapped in a steel noose Thursday morning, and secured it in their nets, said Cheung Chi-sun, a wildlife protection officer from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

A live broadcast on Cable TV showed agriculture department officials in a small boat moving the five-foot-long reptile from the creek. It didn't seem to put up much of a struggle.

The croc was taken to an animal center to be examined by government veterinarians, Cheung said.

Where it came from remains a mystery, although local media have speculated that it was an abandoned pet, or an escapee from a mainland Chinese crocodile farm.

Though the croc was small, officials worried that it could pose a threat to the public as the species is known for frequent attacks on human elsewhere. Media estimated that the government has spent around $26,000 in its effort to catch the animal.

Nicknamed Gucci -- after the Italian designer -- by local media thanks to Hong Kong's passion for crocodile-skin handbags, the beast avoided initial efforts to snare it by local officials, and later defeated crocodile experts from Australia and China.

Australian John Lever, looking like a real-life Crocodile Dundee and boasting he would just "walk in and grab it," flew to Hong Kong and tried his luck with a harpoon last year, only to go home empty-handed after a few weeks.

Another expert from mainland China, He Zhanzhao, also gave up soon afterward as the reptile went into hibernation during Hong Kong's cold winter months.

While the hunters failed to get close to the elusive croc, photographers and TV cameramen have had better luck capturing it on film. TV footage and front-page news often showed the croc -- with its wide-open jaws -- sunbathing on top of traps or walking next to little egrets.

Hong Kong has no native crocodile species, and curious people flocked to the area the croc called home, turning it into a tourist attraction.

Not long after the reptile was first sighted in November, radio callers elected it "Personality of the year."