Human or pet? Mystery surrounds surgical plate found in crocodile’s gut

A surgical plate, right, was found inside the belly of a dead crocodile similar to the one on the left in Rockhampton, Australia. AP Photo/Rob Griffith and Koorana Crocodile Farm

How does a surgical plate from Switzerland end up in the stomach of a captive crocodile in Australia?

That’s the great mystery surrounding MJ, a 4.7 metre-long croc that died on a farm in Queensland last month.

The reptile was born in the wild but has lived on the Koorona Crocodile Farm for over six years. It died after a fight with another crocodile.

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“In order to find the cause of death we opened up his gut to find the plate in amongst numerous stones he used as gastroliths to help grind up his food,” the Koorana Crocodile Farm wrote in a Facebook post on Monday.

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A metal plate is shown among several rocks and screws found inside a dead crocodile in Rockhampton, Australia, in this image posted online July 29, 2019. Koorana Crocodile Farm/Facebook

The farm’s owner, John Lever, has spent the last several days trying to figure out whether the plate came from a pet — or a person.

“No staff and no pets are missing here!” he wrote on Monday.

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Lever says he’s reached out to several doctors and medical supply manufacturers about the plate, and many have said the same thing.

“It’s definitely a human orthopedic plate,” he told Australia’s ABC News on Thursday.

Experts have not independently confirmed the origin of the plate. However, it does resemble the type of orthopedic plate surgeons and vets use to hold broken bones together.

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A dead crocodile is shown at the Koorana Crocodile Farm in Rockhampton, Australia, in this photo posted online July 29, 2019. Koorana Crocodile Farm

Lever told Australia’s 7 News the plate was manufactured in Switzerland and is “quite an old model,” based on a faded marking etched into it.

The metal object is nine centimetres long and has eight screw holes in it. The croc also had several screws in its stomach.

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Lever says it’s not unusual to find all kinds of different objects in a crocodile’s stomach, including coins, beer bottle shards, bones and fur. He shared photos of the contents of several crocodiles’ stomachs in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

He hopes this unusual discovery will help clear up a larger mystery involving a missing person. The mystery could go back several decades, as the croc is thought to be over 60 years old.

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“If we could put some minds at rest, it would be absolutely delightful,” he told 7 News.

The plate has been reported to police in Rockhampton, Queensland.

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