A wild freshwater crocodile hatchling was handed in at a Queensland zoo when an anonymous person decided they didn't want it anymore, wildlife officers believe.
No contact details were left when the baby crocodile was dropped off at Childers, thousands of kilometres from its home in outback north west Queensland.
"The zoo proprietor believes the freshwater crocodile was taken from the wild in the Mt Isa area a few months ago," Senior Wildlife Officer Tina Ball said.
"It's believed the person who dropped it off was travelling to the Sunshine Coast and was going to release it in a waterway as they didn't want it anymore."
The zoo contacted wildlife officers and cared for the reptile until it was collected.
A scale has been removed from its tail for a DNA test to confirm its origin, and a vet check has confirmed it's in good health.
It's now in quarantine at the Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre in suburban Brisbane.
"Unfortunately, the freshwater crocodile cannot be released to the wild because we're not sure if it was exposed to any other animals, which could potentially have exposed it to disease," Ms Ball said.
Removing native animals from the wild and transporting them in cages over long distances can be fatal, she said.
"The usual range for freshwater crocodiles in Queensland is the Cape York region, the Townsville region and the Burdekin region, so this freshie is a long way from home," she said.
Taking a freshwater croc from the wild can attract a fine of more than $5000.
Australian Associated Press