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Chris Evans

March 19, 2007 - 9:52AM


AMBULANCE officers treating a man who turned out to have suffered a suspected epileptic fit while behind the wheel of a car early this morning were forced to call police when they spotted what turned out to be a stolen crocodile in the front seat.


It was later identified as one of several reptiles reported stolen from a children's education centre in Gippsland yesterday morning.


Several more were found in the car when ambulance officers were called to assess the man after he was seen slumped over the wheel of the car at the corner of Havana Crescent and Bowman Court on the Karingal estate, at Frankston, about 5.30am.


Sergeant Darren Hedge of Frankston Police was further surprised by what the find would lead to.


"Upon arrival, the ambulance officers let us know that there was a crocodile on the front seat," Sergeant Hedge said.


"So we had a look and sure enough there was a crocodile and in the back there was a few lizards and reptiles and a snake."


Sergeant Hedge said he had seen a report of the wildlife theft on a television news bulletin, and guessed the find was related and contacted the victims of that crime.


"And sure enough they've come up here and identified them as theirs," he said.


Sergeant Hedge said that while the 21-year-old Frankston man found with the animals was taken "in a disoriented state" to Frankston Hospital, where he remains under observation, he had neither been bitten by something or even affected by any other substance.


"No, we don't believe so. We don't believe that's the case. We all thought that, but don't now believe that's the case," he said.


"Ambulance officers believed he might have suffered an epileptic fit or something."


However, Sergeant Hedge said, not all of the missing animals have been accounted for.


Up to $15,000 worth of reptiles were reported stolen from Wildlife Wonderland in the Gippsland town of Bass early yesterday.


Park owner Jason Watson had yesterday told The Age he was "terrified" for the animals which included bearded dragons, water dragons, blue-tongued lizards, pink-tongued skinks, children's pythons and a 60-centimetre freshwater crocodile.


Oddly, the thieves did not take some of the most valuable creatures, including several frill-neck lizards worth up to $3500 each.


Victorian detectives will question a man later today in connection with the theft.

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