Ian Jenkins, 58, was attacked on Sunday by the four-metre saltwater crocodile – called Macca – at the Snakes Downunder Reptile Park and Zoo, in Childers. The Brisbane Times reported that Mr Jenkins had waved his hat in his left hand and a chicken in his right in order to get the croc’s attention. But instead of biting the bird the giant reptile surged out of the water and bit the man’s left hand.

Mr Jenkins lost his thumb, suffered further damage down to the wrist, and also suffered a laceration to his head when the crocodile pulled him under the water in an apparent attempt to finish off his victim with a ‘death roll’.

He was given urgent pain relief and airlifted to the Bundaberg Base Hospital, where he underwent surgery. Mr Jenkins subsequently spoke to the media from his hospital bed, and credited fellow reptile handler Louise Smith with saving his life.

“Louise was in there with me, she’s had a fair bit of experience with crocodiles,” he said, according to ABC. “She managed to whack him on the head – he was coming in to finish me off, I think, by the sound of it. I think she broke (a) stick on his head and gave me a bit of time to get out.”

The married father-of-three said: “I’m very, very lucky indeed, it could’ve been an awful lot worse. He might not have let go – I think he only let go because the thumb came off.”

Mr Jenkins said the crocodile had acted instinctively after he made an error in getting too close in order to prevent it going back into the water after a feed. Asked if the reptile was still his friend, he replied: “He’s a good crocodile. He’s not aggressive at all – he’s a bit of a character. I’ve got a few other names for him at the moment, but he’s a bit of a character.”