It was a bittersweet moment for Ian Jenkins and staff at Snakes Downunder Reptile Park and Zoo when new resident saltwater crocodile Munga was hoisted into the croc enclosure.
A large crane was used to lift the aluminium case containing Munga into his new home.
While Ian and the staff are delighted that one of the zoo’s key attractions again has a star performer, thoughts naturally drifted to the loss of Macca who had been with the zoo since day one.
Macca had created an iconic presence at the zoo and daily shows featuring his awesome strength and incredible agility enthralled crowds for years. A lung infection ultimately took the life of Macca in late November.
This week it was time for a replacement for both the zoo and for Alice, the female saltwater crocodile who had been fretting at the loss of Macca.
Ian said he visited Australia Zoo recently and agreed to take Munga.
“Munga had been a performance animal but Australia Zoo has many crocs that they need to introduce into a more publicly active environment so Munga was placed among others in the attraction’s Crocoseum,” he said.
While Ian had a long relationship with Macca and understood every idiosyncratic aspect of that croc’s behaviour, he admits its back to square one with Munga.
“He’s got to learn and develop a relationship with us and us with him. I guess it will be a case of us expecting the unexpected when it comes to Munga,” Ian said.
Toby, a croc handler on staff at Australia Zoo, was impressed with Munga’s new home.
“He’s going to love it here. He is a performer but he’s quick, insanely quick,” Toby warned.
Julianne Nugent, who regularly handled Macca said it was great to have another male crocodile at the zoo.
“It is a bit daunting though. I do miss Macca but he will always remain close to my heart,” she said.
Around Julianne’s neck is a necklace with a tooth from Macca tastefully mounted. “I have had it a few years. They shed teeth occasionally and Ian found this one and presented it to me.”
While the arrival of Munga took centre stage, the zoo also welcomed back Naga, the Komodo Dragon.
“Naga has been for a visit to Australia Zoo basically to meet up with the lady Komodo Dragons we hope to introduce him to for a future mating program,” Ian said.
“While this visit was simply to see how the females interacted with Naga it will be more serious business next visit.”