Klepto-Croc: Australian crocodile lunges at worker, steals lawn mower

(CBS/AP) SYDNEY - Category: Amphibious Assault.

A thieving saltwater crocodile named Elvis charged at an Australian reptile-park worker Wednesday and stole his lawn mower, later lounging with it underwater in his lagoon enclosure.

Tim Faulkner, operations manager at the Australian Reptile Park in Sydney, was one of three workers taking care of the lawn in Elvis' enclosure when he heard reptile keeper Billy Collett cry out. Faulkner looked up just in time to see the 16-foot lizard lunging out of the lagoon at Collett, who tried to ward off the crocodile with the machine.

"Before we knew it, the croc had the mower above his head," Faulkner said. "He got his jaws around the top of the mower and picked it up and took it underwater with him."

The park workers made haste in leaving the enclosure while Elvis, meanwhile, showed no sign all morning of surrendering his new possession. 

Faulkner told the BBC, "Once he got it, he just sat there and guarded it. It was his prize, his trophy."

Eventually, the keepers knew they had no other choice than to retrieve the stolen mower.

Any volunteers?

While Collett lured Elvis to the other end of the enclosure with an offering of kangaroo meat, Faulkner jumped in the lagoon and grabbed the badly chewed mower - and also two teeth that Elvis had lost in the struggle.

Elvis has a rather extensive reptile rap sheet:  When the croc was initially captured in the northern Australian city of Darwin, he was attacking local fishing boats. Later on, when he was moved to a crocodile farm, he killed both of his reptilian girlfriends.

In 2008 Elvis was finally moved to the reptile park, where he has lived the past  four years in solitary confinement. Faulkner said when crocodiles are dominant, like Elvis, they have a lot of testosterone, and they like living alone.

Staff workers describe him as "cranky," and said he has lunged at employees before, though this stands as his first theft.

Despite having to give up the lawn mower, Elvis was clearly pleased with himself, Faulkner said.