A cranky koala achieved what an angry croc couldn't - it beat off thieves.
The bizarre incident began when Rockhampton police in Queensland received a tip-off that someone had a crocodile in their possession.
"The police came to the zoo, checked out our exhibit and we were down a female freshwater crocodile,'' said Tom Wyatt at Rockhampton City Council.
The 1.2 metre crocodile - known simply as "the girl freshie" - was dragged by thieves over a 2.4 metre fence in the middle of the night.
"Can you imagine these people struggling over a 2.4 metre security fence with a writhing wild reptile?" he said.
"It's not a baby you are holding in your arms here. We are talking about 40 kilograms and 1.2 metres of absolute fury."
"They are not man-eaters [like salt water crocodiles]. But they can still give you a nasty bite."
The thieves originally planned to take one of the zoo's koalas and only changed tack after it proved too vicious, 21-year-old zookeeper Wil Kemp told smh.com.au.
He had been told by police that four people were involved in the wildlife heist, which allegedly involved stealing a koala and swapping it for drugs.
"The original plan was to steal a koala - that's what they were going to use to swap [for] the drugs,'' Mr Kemp said.
"[But] apparently [the koala] scratched the shit out of them.''
"The blokes have quite a lot of scratches and lacerations caused by the koala.''
The thieves then decided to take a crocodile instead.
"I don't know what makes someone go, 'Oh we tried to steal a koala and that didn't work so lets go and steal a croc.' "
"The people who did it must have been quite stupid. It's the last thing I wound have thought a member of the general public would try to steal for drugs."
Mr Kemp said the meat and skin of a freshwater crocodile were worthless, but the stolen reptile might be sold in the pet trade for about $600.
"I'm worried and angered. I spent the last three years looking after it. I hope at least [the person who has it is] looking after it OK.''
He said police had told him they had been unable to locate the crocodile.
"They can't find it because it has been passed on to someone else who traded it for some marijuana and speed.''
Two women have been issued with notices to appear in court over the theft of the crocodile.
Sergeant Paul Elliot said a lot of rumours were flying around about what the thieves' original intention was.
"There's a lot of that going around. We can't confirm or deny if their intention was initially to get a koala. It's all specualtion at the moment."
He would not comment on the drug deal allegations.
Police believe the crocodile was taken in the early hours of Saturday morning but Mr Kemp remembers seeing it on Sunday morning.
He thinks it must have been taken on Monday morning when another drama occurred at the zoo.
"One of the wombats got bitten by a snake. No one can officially remember seeing [the female] crocodile on Monday.
To advise that Vest (Les Bowyer) passed away this morning. Regards, Chris (Son).
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