'Lost' Big Mango found in Australia; 'theft' turns out to be publicity stunt

This undated picture released by the the Bowen Tourism Center shows a man standing next to a 10m and seven-tonne mango monument in the statue's hometown of Bowen, in Queensland.  -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
This undated picture released by the the Bowen Tourism Center shows a man standing next to a 10m and seven-tonne mango monument in the statue's hometown of Bowen, in Queensland.  -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - The "theft" of a three-storey, seven-tonne mango statue in northern Australia was revealed on Tuesday to be an elaborate publicity stunt by a fast-food chain.

Monday's disappearance of the Big Mango, a towering fibreglass likeness of the fruit which is abundant in its hometown of Bowen, made international headlines and a Facebook page was set up to help find it.

But a chicken restaurant chain has said it was responsible for "borrowing" the tourist attraction.

"The disappearance of Bowen's Big Mango has generated quite a lot of attention over the last day or so, and we confess Nando's was behind moving the three storey high, ten tonne tourist attraction," it said on its website.

"Nando's would like to thank the people of Bowen for being good sports about us 'borrowing' their beautiful mango.

The chain said the reason for the stunt would be revealed soon and that the mango would be put back in place.

The famous fruit, which was unveiled in 2002 as a kitschy tourist attraction, appeared to have been harvested in an ambitious raid by thieves armed with heavy machinery and cranes.

But suspicions were raised when police said they were not investigating.

A caller to ABC radio Tuesday said the mango was lying in the bush behind the information centre where it usually sits.

"They've laid it over on its side on a couple of tractor tyres by the look of it and covered all that end that's facing Bowen with big, long tree branches and shade cloths so nobody can see it," he said.

"It's a pretty hard thing to hide."

There are giant fruits all over Australia, including the Big Banana, the Big Pineapple, the Big Strawberry and multiple Big Apples and Oranges.

There are also giant fishes, a lobster, penguin, kangaroo, koalas, and even a giant cask of wine.

Bowen is known as the mango production capital of Australia.