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April 17, 2014

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Crocodile takes Australian boy, mauls another

Updated Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014 | 5:08 p.m.

DARWIN, Australia (AP) — Rangers shot two large crocodiles on Monday near where a 12-year-old boy was snatched and his friend was mauled as they swam in a water hole in a popular Outback tourist destination in northern Australia.

But neither saltwater crocodile — one 4.7 meters (15 feet, 5 inches) and the other 4.3 meters (14 foot, 1 inch) — is believed to be the killer, police Sergeant Stephen Constable said. A helicopter and boat search over the area continued Monday.

The missing boy was taken by a crocodile as he and four other boys swam on Sunday afternoon at Mudginberri Billabong in World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, southeast of the Northern Territory capital of Darwin, Constable said.

Moments earlier, his 12-year-old friend was mauled as he fought the crocodile and sustained deep wounds to both arms, he said.

"One boy fought off the crocodile, and then the crocodile turned and took the other boy," Constable told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

The boy who survived "was first taken by the right arm, and then he fought off the crocodile and he's also got lacerations to his left elbow," Constable added.

Constable said the croc was thought to be at least three meters (10 feet) long. It is unlikely a child could have escaped a much larger croc.

The missing boy is from the small Aboriginal settlement of Mudginberri, west of the uranium mining town of Jabiru.

Police and park rangers searched with spot lights for the crocodile and boy by land and boat into Sunday night. A fresh team of searchers resumed the hunt after dawn on Monday.

Constable said two airboats, flat-bottomed vessels that are driven by an aircraft-type propellers, would extend the search to flood plains on Monday.

Billabongs are semi-permanent water holes during the annual dry season, which become flooded parts of river systems during the current monsoonal season.

Constable said neither of the crocodiles that were shot had any evidence of the attack in its stomach.

Sign posts throughout Kakadu warn visitors not to swim in waterways because of the crocodile danger.

Crocodile numbers have exploded across Australia's tropical north since the species was protected by federal law in 1971. The crocodile population is densest in the Northern Territory, where Kakadu National Park is located, and is promoted as a major tourist attraction.

A 26-year-old man was killed by a 4.7-meter (15-foot, 5 inches) crocodile last August as he swam across the Mary River, southeast of Darwin.