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Last Updated: Monday June 15 2009 05:09 GMT

Maddy visits crocodile sanctuary

Maddy and a crocodile

Maddy goes to a crocodile sanctuary

The UK's first ever sanctuary for abandoned crocodiles has opened in Weymouth Sealife Centre on the south coast of England.

All the animals used to be kept as pets, but their owners found it too tricky to look after them.

Maddy went to help them settle into their new home...


"I wasn't nervous when we crept into the warehouse where five crocodiles were being looked after ahead of their big move. The first was sprawled out inside a huge blue bowl. He was totally still except for his eyes, which he kept locked on us at all times.

I peered a little closer at him and my heart started beating a little faster. 'He can't jump out of that bowl can he?' I asked Tristan, one of the animal experts we had with us.

Tristan said that was very unlikely. 'But if he did, how fast could he move?', I asked. 'Probably faster than you, Maddy', said Tristan. 'He's the worst behaved animal we've got in here'. Eek, I was getting a bit scared now!

Health check

A crocodile

Before the reptiles could be helped into their new home, the experts needed to check they were healthy. I helped measure a smaller croc named Gummy.

He's called that because he's actually lost a few of his teeth. We weren't taking any chances though. Tristan and his team taped up Gummy's mouth, just in case he got snappy!

Then I was asked to look over Gummy's skin to make sure he didn't have any cuts or grazes. By now my heart was pounding. Could I really touch such a dangerous animal?

Usually I am a bit of a daredevil. I have skydived out of a plane, swum in an underground cave, I even covered my face in snails once on Newsround! Surely getting up close and personal with a crocodile couldn't be that bad?!

I took a deep breath. 'Don't worry', said Tristan. 'The team won't let anything happen to you'.

Scaly skin

Finally, I edged a bit closer and gingerly placed my fingers on the top of the crocodile's head. Then I slowly ran my hands all along his back. I had imagined it would feel a bit slimy, but it was actually cold, hard and dry.

Next, it was time to feel around his stomach. It was soft, squidgy and much warmer with a rubbery coating. I could see it changing shape as I touched it. This was definitely my least favourite moment of the day, but I was really proud of myself for doing it.

A crocodile

Finally, I got to the tail, which was the only place where Gummy had a couple of small grazes. The animal experts said they were nothing to worry about though, so he'd passed his health check and was ready to go into his new home.

The move

I helped lift Gummy up and place him into a large white box, which Tristan and his team packed into their van and drove round to the crocodile sanctuary.

Maddy measures a crocodile

Maddy measures a crocodile

It took just a few minutes for them to unload Gummy and set him down in the enclosure. They used a wooden board to guide him in, and then made a temporary fence with it to stop him getting out or snapping at them.

Gummy stayed calm though and slid quickly from the concrete bank into the water. He disappeared under the surface and it was tricky to spot exactly where he was lurking.

Tristan told me won't take much time at all for Gummy and his friends to settle in, and if any other crocodiles get abandoned there's still space to squeeze in a few more.

I reckon I've definitely seen more than enough of the scaly creatures for now though!"

Maddy