An Australian farmer who found an orthopaedic plate inside a crocodile’s stomach says he has been told the surgical device was from a human.
Koorana Crocodile Farm owner John Lever found the plate inside a 4.7metre animal named MJ during an autopsy at his business near Rockhampton, Queensland, in June.
He initially wasn’t sure if the unusual find had been part of an animal or human.
But he said since making photos of the plate public, he had been told it was a type used in human surgery.
Families of people who have gone missing in the area have reached out to Mr Lever to find out if the plate belongs to their loved ones.
The crocodile died after suffering injuries from a fight with another croc on the farm that’s home to 5,000 animals.
Whenever a crocodile dies at the farm, workers open up their stomachs in a bid to figure out the cause of death.
Mr Lever estimated MJ was between 50 and 70 years old when he died. MJ could have eaten the bone that the plate had been attached to by six screws 50 years ago, he said.
All remnants of human tissue attached to the plate had been long digested.
Mr Lever is continuing to make inquiries in the hope of discovering what decade the type of plate was used and perhaps who it had belonged to.
‘I wouldn’t call it an investigation, we’re making inquiries because we’re fascinated by this whole thing,’ Mr Lever said.
‘Obviously this crocodile has chomped on something and that plate has been left in its stomach complete with screws.’
Mr Lever bought MJ from a farmer in Innisfail, 1,000km, north of Rockhampton, six years ago.
Sometime earlier, MJ had been trapped in the wild.
Crocodiles are protected in Australia and are only trapped if they are a threat to humans.
‘We’ve had a couple of people get in touch with us about their relatives that have gone missing in the northern Queensland area and they’re anxious to find out – there’s been nothing heard of these people, they’ve just disappeared,’ Mr Lever said.
‘We’ll certainly keep these people informed of any new news that we can get.’
The last fatal crocodile attack in Australia was in 2017, when a 79-year-old dementia patient was killed after wandering from a nursing home at Port Douglas in Queensland.
Crocodile population has exploded across the country’s tropical north since the 1970s. Because saltwater crocodiles can live up to 70 years and grow throughout their lives – reaching up to 7 meters (23 feet) in length – the proportion of large crocodiles is also rising.