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Saturday, May 30, 2015

World's Crocodile Heavy Weight Champion Cassius Turns 112

The saying goes to never smile at a crocodile, but Cassius the saltwater crocodile couldn't help but leave his audience smiling as the 'salty' celebrated a record 112th birthday, complete with balloons, a 'happy birthday' sign – and a chicken birthday cake.

Cassius eating his chicken birthday cake
Recognised by Guinness World Records as the largest crocodile in captivity, and also thought to be the oldest, Cassius measures 5.48metres (18ft) in length and weighs 1300kg (2,866 pounds).

The monster croc celebrated his 112th birthday from his retirement home on idyllic Green Island, a Great Barrier Reef coral cay off the coast of Cairns.

Cassius was captured in 1984 after becoming a problem crocodile in the Northern Territory for stealing cattle and attacking boat propellers. When caught, he was missing a leg and had battle scars all over his body, testament to a hard-fought life in the wild.

Croc handler and founder of Marineland Melanesia on Green Island, George Craig, bought the croc and took him to Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef to live out his retirement years in peace and safety at the Craig's crocodile park – Marineland Melanesia.

George named the fighter croc after another world Heavyweight Champion Cassius Clay, the birth name of boxer Muhammad Ali.

Three generations of Craig family zookeepers – Jemma, Steve and George Craig
The park is family-owned and run with three generations of the Craig family living on the island and working at tiny Great Barrier Reef coral cay off the coast of Cairns.

Zookeeper and youngest Craig family member Jemma has known Cassius her entire life.

“They give crocodiles a maximum age of about 90 years in the wild just because another croc will eventually come along and kill them,” Jemma says.

“Because he's been in captivity and sheltered for the past 30 years, he has lived a lot longer.

“Green Island is a really unique place - I think it's the only sand cay on The Great Barrier Reef that has a rainforest growing on it and a crocodile zoo let alone the biggest croc in captivity.”

Cassius celebrated his milestone with Marineland Melanesia visitors and three generations of Craig family handlers who tend to the battle-scarred and ancient croc's every need.

As for how many more birthdays Cassius will celebrate, it's anybody's guess; but with his relaxed island lifestyle Cassius may yet be cared for by the fourth generation of the Craig family.

“He's living on a tropical island so what more could you want the last years of your life?” says Jemma.

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