Subject: BBC: East Timor recruits crocs

Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 22:16 GMT East Timor recruits crocs

The two reptiles were moved to the East Timor Defence Force base near Dili on Thursday by a team of Australian handlers.

They will have a better home at the military camp - I am sad but I will visit them there

Roman Catholic priest Leao da Costa One of the crocodiles used to belong to the head of Dili's much-feared Indonesian police force while the other came from a local Roman Catholic church.

Colonel Mark Webb, from the United Nations peacekeeping force in the region, told the BBC the animals had originally been found in heavily polluted ponds.

Unusual home

Antonio - the larger of the two crocodiles, weighing 300kg ( 660 pounds) - had lived in a Dili church compound since his capture in 1994.

Crocodile Timorese crocodiles have been known to harm humans "They will have a better home at the military camp. I am sad but I will visit them there," said Leao da Costa, one of the priests at the church.

Maria - just 120kg (265 pounds) - was given to international peacekeepers in 1999, when the Indonesians withdrew from the island following a referendum on independence.

She had belonged to Colonel Tono Suratman, the Indonesian police chief in the final period of the island's 24-year occupation.

Croc mythology

The East Timorese hold crocodiles in high regard and the reptiles feature in many of the country's myths and legends.

According to one story, East Timor itself is a huge submerged crocodile.

The island is home to several different species, some of which can grow as long as eight metres (26 feet).

Colonel Webb said Antonio and Maria are likely to grow larger and gain weight in their new military environment.

But for now they are just settling in.

"Maria went straight to the bottom of the pond and stayed there," said Colonel Webb.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/2710447.stm


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