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How Australia's pet crocs become pest crocs

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Stampy joins a growing number of saltwater crocodiles in the north of the country that look good in a living room aquarium when they are small, but then must leave the home once they grow larger than two feet.

"They are a novelty pet which need feeding only in two or three days," says Peter Phillips, a ranger with the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Service. "This makes them attractive Christmas pets, too."

Customers for the 50 or so crocodiles that are sold to the public annually from Crocodylus Park, a crocodile reserve just outside Darwin in the Northern Territory, come from all across Australia – New South Wales and Victoria as well as within the state. That may also explain the reluctance to return them when they grow up – some owners would have to travel long distances to do that. But most of the problem is in the Northern Territory, which is where Crocodylus is located. People who should return them may just be lazy. The park is just outside Darwin.

"You have to give the crocodile back once it reaches 62 centimeters if you live in a metropolitan or residential area," says Northern Territories pet shop owner Tracy Smith. "But even we are not allowed to take them back once they get beyond 62 centimeters. Then you have to take them to a croc farm like Crocodylus Park."

Anyone with a permit (and it's not hard to get one for a baby crocodile) can buy a foot-long crocodile from a pet shop for around A$300 (US$262). But when it comes to returning the pets to the shops or the crocodile farms that abound, owners (including retired couples, parents, and college students) often get lazy.

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