Department cites lack of a work permit, visa and insurance as reasons to turn down Australian expert's free offer Australian crocodile hunter John Lever got an instant rejection from the government yesterday when he said he intended to fly to Hong Kong to catch the Yuen Long crocodile without an official invitation. Officials told him, in no uncertain terms, not to come. Mr Lever said an Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department official told him: 'You must understand you need a work permit, a visa and insurance before you can come.' Officials have been trying to catch the crocodile for eight days. 'I guess that means I'll just have to wait on for that invite, or just forget about it altogether,' he said. Mr Lever, one of Australia's leading crocodile experts, made an offer last Wednesday to fly in to help catch the crafty croc that has eluded department officials. With Cathay Pacific and the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel providing flights and accommodation, it would cost the government nothing. So now that the fruitless hunt had reached day eight, was the department close to deciding finally whether to invite Mr Lever or not? 'We are still considering Mr Lever's offer and the others we have received,' the department spokesman said. 'When we have decided we will let you know.' Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals executive director Pauline Taylor was baffled as to why the department had not bitten at Mr Lever's free offer. 'What's holding them up?' she asked. Impatient to get on with the job, Mr Lever told the department yesterday that he might as well come to Hong Kong anyway, while they were still deciding. He said he told the department: 'I am becoming increasingly worried about the welfare of the crocodile. I have seen what happens when inexperienced people try to catch a crocodile and I am very concerned that either the animal or someone who tries to catch it may get hurt. 'I am anxious to give every possible assistance to the Hong Kong government in this matter, and for this reason I think it is best if I come to Hong Kong right away.' The response, he said - speaking on his mobile phone from a Queensland mudhole where he was catching a two-metre crocodile - was swift. 'They said I couldn't just come to Hong Kong because I would need a visa, a work permit and insurance.' Meanwhile, a department spokeswoman said the Yuen Long crocodile must tug harder on the bait next time it ventures into the trap. 'We nearly caught him on Saturday but he only bit the dead chicken and pulled it a little. He must bite on it and pull hard next time,' she said. 'That will trip the trap-door mechanism.' To the delight of the crowds of photographers and onlookers assembled on the bank of Yuen Long Creek on Saturday, the as-yet unnamed 1.2-metre reptile spent a minute prodding the bait inside one of the AFCD's partly submerged cage traps. It then waddled out and swam over to a second cage but half-way in it was spooked by noise from the bank and retreated hastily.