Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

Crocodile Legend So Hard to Pin Down; This Amazing Story Was Never Going to Be an Easy One to Get

Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

Crocodile Legend So Hard to Pin Down; This Amazing Story Was Never Going to Be an Easy One to Get

Article excerpt

Byline: Jenny Lanyon

TWO years ago crocodile farmer John Lever and I started out on a journey together to write his life story; a commission from HarperCollins Publishers.

Let's face it, he had the story and I had the time -- which is something I was quick to discover he didn't have.

One minute he was making a mad dash by road to Broome to collect juvenile crocodiles and the next an expedition via his own specially modified bus to deliver a 750kg crocodile to the Melbourne Aquarium.

This was not long after conducting a croc training course, filming for the ABC TV Croc College series and trialling an artificial insemination program in conjunction with the University of Queensland.

Somehow he'd even managed to take a couple of weeks off to have a hip replacement when he simply couldn't walk anymore, all the while, juggling a business open 364 days of the year.

How could he possibly have time to pen his own life story?

I've known John and Lillian for 34 years, but what I didn't know until recently was that he'd spent seven years in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s.

On my adventures around the world from Canada before arriving in Australia in 1980, I'd visited Moitaka, the wildlife research station in Port Moresby, which John had managed, where he'd been seconded from CSIRO -- not that I'd met John at that time.

There, he'd overseen government wildlife utilisation projects: Cassowaries for bride prices, Rusa deer as venison for export to Germany, bird-wing butterflies for the Chinese ornamental market and, of course, crocodiles for their valuable skins. Later, he was appointed as an United Nations Developmental Officer, securing $1.25 million in funding for crocodile projects.

But not before wrestling a crocodile airborne at 1300m, running head-long into a spider the size of an outstretched hand and, from a helicopter, pouring a four litre can of silver-frost over a massive fig tree to settle a long-running dispute between seven tribes over birds' eggs.

He grew close to the pukpuk clan people, learning the art of hunting and capturing crocodiles alive, for the purposes of farming them, to grow bigger skins, thus value-adding their croc skin exports. …

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