A crocodile has attacked a man at the Shoalhaven Zoo in front of school holiday onlookers.
Animal handler Trent Burton believed to be in his mid 30s, was performing one of the regular crocodile feeding shows at the zoo at about noon on Monday.
Shortly after, the resident croc, a 3.7 metre male known as John, grabbed him by the hand and dragged him into the water in the enclosure in front of horrified spectators.
'the croc just grabbed his hand and pulled him to the ground and dragged him into the water.'
Shaken witnessed told how the handler managed to get free of the croc’s grasp and get out of the water.
Witness Marlene Orr, from Shellharbour, said it was the scariest thing she had ever seen in her life.
“We saw the trainer taken by the crocodile,” she said.
“I’ve seen them in the wild, lying on river banks and have seen them at Steve Irwin’s Zoo, but never like this.
“It was too scary.”
Albion Park resident Michelle Brady and her daughters Monique and Georgia also saw the attack.
“The trainer was feeding him meat and the crocodile took it before the designated area to be fed. The trainer tried to take it out of the crocodile’s mouth and the croc just grabbed his hand and pulled him to the ground and dragged him into the water,” she said.
“Then the trainer got free and got out of the water.
“He had puncture holes in his hand,” she said.
He was treated at the zoo by ambulance paramedics and walked to the ambulance.
He was taken to Shoalhaven District Hospital with bites to both hands.
Shoalhaven Zoo owner Nick Schilko said the Mr Burton had been with the zoo working with the crocodiles for more than a decade.
“Of course we are disappointed the attack happened, but thankfully it doesn’t appear to be too serious,” he said..0
“It’s an attack and that is serious, but thankfully the injuries aren’t life threatening, which it certainly had the potential to be.
“He’s more disappointed with himself that it happened.
“He works with him on a daily basis.”
It’s not the first time John, named after the former owner if the park John Stone, has latched onto the odd digit or two.
Mr Schilko had been bitten by one the zoo’s star attractions.
“At this stage we don’t know how serious the damage to his hands may be. “He said he hasn’t lost any fingers and thinks it would only require some stitches,” Mr Schilko said.
He said the zoo would reassess its procedures.
“We will look at what happened and how it happened and review it,” he said.
“We have procedures in place and they need to be followed.
“If the handler wants to get back involved with the big crocs, which I bet he will, I would be 100 per cent behind him,” he said.
“Big John has been a resident of the park for more than 10 years and along with his female partner, Dawn, were named after the former owners of the zoo, John and Dawn Stone.”
They are believed to be the southern-most pair of crocodiles to breed in an outdoor enclosure in the world.