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Phone keeps ringing in Ukrainian crocodile's tummy

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From SFgate.com

Phone keeps ringing in Ukrainian crocodile's tummy

By MARIA DANILOVA, Associated Press

Associated Press January 21, 2011 07:16 AM Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, January 21, 2011

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.28 .(01-21) 07:16 PST KIEV, Ukraine (AP) --

The crocodile in "Peter Pan" happily went "tick-tock" after swallowing an alarm clock but a crocodile in Ukraine has been a little less fortunate.

Gena, a 14-year-old crocodile at an aquarium in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk, has been refusing food and acting listless after eating a cell phone dropped by a woman as she tried to photograph him.

Aquarium workers initially didn't believe Rimma Golovko, a new mother in her 20s, when she complained that the crocodile had swallowed her phone.

"But then the phone started ringing and the sound was coming from inside our Gena's stomach and we understood she wasn't lying," said Alexandra, an employee who declined to give her last name as she wasn't authorized to speak publicly.

Golovko admits the accident was her fault. She stretched out her arm to snap a photo of Gena opening his mouth and dropped her Nokia phone into the water.

"This should have been a very dramatic shot, but things didn't work out," she said.

Golovko is resigned to losing her phone, but still wants its SIM card back since that has her precious photos and contacts.

The mishap has caused bigger problems for the crocodile, which has not eaten or had a bowel movement in four weeks and appears depressed and in pain.

"The animal is not feeling well," said Alexandra. "His behavior has changed, he moves very little and swims much less than he used to."

Doctors tried to whet the crocodile's appetite this week by feeding him live quail rather than the pork or beef he usually gets once a week. The quail were injected with vitamins and a laxative, but while Gena smothered one bird, he didn't eat it.

He also won't play with three fellow African crocodiles, despite being the leader in the group. Crocodiles can live up to 100 years.

"He is the biggest and the oldest, perhaps he went for the phone to protect his group," Alexandra said.

Dnipropetrovsk chief veterinarian Oleksandr Shushlenko said the crocodile will be taken for an X-ray next week if he continues to refuse food. Surgically removing the phone would be a measure of last resort, he said, since incisions and stitches usually take at least three weeks to heal in reptiles and the procedure is dangerous for the animal and the vets.

"Everything will depend on where the foreign body is located," Shushlenko said. "We don't have much experience working with such large animals."

The crocodile in "Peter Pan" with the ticking stomach was on the hunt for Captain Hook after getting a taste for the pirate's flesh from eating one of his hands. But luckily for Hook, he could always hear the crocodile coming.

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