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Thieves dump crocodiles in school

Australian police hunting for four men

Australian police are searching for four men who left three malnourished saltwater crocodiles in a school, after breaking in to steal equipment.

Northern Territory Police said the men entered the Taminmin College in Humpty Doo, 40km south of Darwin, early on Sunday after pushing the crocodiles, which were each about 2m long, through a broken window.

The suspects, whose heads were covered with scarves, were caught on closed-circuit TV footage dumping the reptiles in the main office, reported Sky News.

The men were seen ransacking the room and throwing a computer on the floor.

They stole a computer monitor before running away, Reuters reported.

Parks and wildlife rangers said the reptiles, which had their mouths taped shut, had probably been taken from a nearby crocodile farm and were unlikely to survive as they were in such poor health.

"Basically skin and bones, not much meat left on them. They were really quiet and easy to catch," ranger Luke McLaren told ABC radio.

"We'll determine what farm they're from, and we'll try to take them back, but looking at their condition, it's likely they'll have to be destroyed."

Senior Constable David Gregory said the crocodiles have not seen water for a long time and are undernourished.

Saltwater crocodiles are a protected species and interfering with them is a criminal offence, punishable by fines of up to A$77,000 (S$79,000) or a jail term of up to five years.

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