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The BBC's Dominic Hughes in Sydney
"Emotional cost for the staff will also be high"
 real 28k

Sunday, 16 July, 2000, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Reptiles perish in park blaze

Crocodiles were among the fire victims
Hundreds of rare and exotic reptiles, including crocodiles and snakes, have been killed in a fire at one of Australia's most popular wildlife attractions.

Only two turtles were rescued from the blaze at the Australian Reptile Park north of Sydney.

One was plucked from the smouldering ashes by a firefighter, the other was found in a water tank.

Distressed staff, who have spent years collecting and nurturing the animals, have been undergoing counselling.

It took 50 firefighters three hours to control the blaze that ripped through the park's breeding enclosures and offices around midnight, killing some 1,000 snakes, frogs, turtles, lizards, platypus, and crocodiles.

Damage is estimated at more than US$600,000 and the cause of the fire is being investigated.

Award-winner

The park is home to Australia's leading centre for providing antidotes for snake and spider bites.

A popular tourist attraction, it has won a number of awards, including 1998 Best Regional Tourist Attraction in Australia.

Tourist buses were turned away from the gutted site on Sunday.

The first fire teams at the scene had initially been concerned about entering the snake and spider-infested building.

"We opened one door to make access and there was an eight-foot python curled up on the inside of the door," said one fireman.

"It was apparent fairly quickly that it had expired."

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05 Nov 99 | Asia-Pacific
Crocodile influx threatens Australia
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