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Crocodile Tears

A prankster who thought it would be good fun to leave a giant stuffed crocodile in a hunter's private wood at Modautal in Germany is being sought by police who discovered the 6-foot beast was from a protected species and had probably caught by poachers in Africa.

Hunter Joerg Radler, 48, said he had been checking on the woods to make sure everything was in order when he pushed a bush to one side and saw the crocodile motionless on the ground in front of him.

He said: "My first thought was that there isn't a pond there and then I suddenly remembered how fast they can run when they want to. I started to back slowly away but then I realised it really wasn't moving and I guessed it was either dead or plastic."

A closer look showed the croc was missing several teeth and after throwing a branch to triple check he called police who quickly identified that it was once a real crocodile that had been professionally stuffed.

The beast was identified by experts as having been between 20 and 40 years old and a female of the species Osteolaemus tetraspis - the so-called dwarf crocodile from Africa.

In addition police believe the crocodile was probably illegally caught and smuggled into Europe and as it is a protected species, they are now looking for the former owner with a view to pressing charges.

A police spokesman said: "The animal had only recently been stuffed and it had been professionally done. As it is an endangered species threatened with extinction in the wild it is a serious matter."

Radler said: "I told police it didn't look very dwarf to me – it certainly gave me a shock."

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