Moment zookeeper injured trying to restrain ‘Australia’s Crankiest Crocodile’

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Giving an angry crocodile a dental exam is, as you would expect, an extremely dangerous task.

A team at the Australian Reptile Park in NSW had a terrifyingly close call this week with a croc dubbed ‘Australia’s Crankiest Crocodile’ – leaving one zookeeper with a head injury.

“The whole thing was over in less than 15 seconds, but it felt like an eternity,” operations manager Billy Collett said.

“I’m so thankful to the team for reacting as quickly as they did and that we all came out in once piece.”

Croc injures zookeeper Australian Reptile Park

Mr Collett and a team of keepers lured Elvis the saltwater crocodile out of the water and managed to secure ropes around his jaws.

The huge reptile was given a muscle relaxant instead of being sedated because it is safer for the croc, however, it is more dangerous for the keepers.

A wooden chock was then secured in his mouth to keep the jaw ajar for a teeth X-ray. He was believed to have a dental infection.

But as seven keepers held Elvis down, he started to thrash his head around causing the 5kg piece of wood to fling out of his jaw and hit Mr Collett in the head, who was sitting on top of Elvis’ head.

“I went starry-eyed. Honestly I can’t even describe how hard I was holding on to this crocodile because if I had let go, got flicked off the side, I would have put the whole team at risk,” he said.

“At one stage I had my head at the side of his head literally looking straight into an open mouth and I knew at that stage I had to get myself my team out of there. We were in serious danger.”

At first, Mr Collett didn’t realise what had hit him in the head.

He was left with a “pretty decent bump” but counts it as a win considering what the outcome could have been.

He said despite having captured hundreds of large crocodiles over the years, he had never felt anything like the power Elvis had when he started thrashing.

The team were shaken up but didn’t give up, making a second attempt to get Elvis his dental exam with the help of some extra muscle relaxant.

Elvis had one tooth removed and his general health check came out clear.

The croc has been at the Australian Reptile Park since 2007 after he was captured in the Northern Territory, where he was said to be causing havoc to fisherman’s boats in Darwin Harbour.

The Australian Reptile Park on the Central Coast of NSW is open daily and offers live shows, themed exhibits and interactions with animals.