21st century dinos

Year old crocs getting bigger

(Andrew) With over 44,000 crocodiles, Padenga Crocodile Farm on Lake Kariba is one of the largest of its kind. At the age of 3, its reptilian inhabitants are slaughtered for their precious skin, which is sold in today’s markets. We arrived off of our houseboat and were greeted by a pool of disinfectant to dip our shoes in so as not to transmit outside filth that might sicken the multitude of crocs. Our guide from the company met us on the inside of the large white gate that separated rural area from multi-hundred-worker company and we started out tour. This huge farm is probably the most successful one in Africa and the numbers and statistics involved are downright amazing. Every year the farm gathers 20,000 eggs from its breeding crocodiles (the ones who have outlived the 3-4 year-old culling age). Interestingly, one female crocodile lays anywhere from 40-80 eggs in one clutch! These eggs are then shipped to another branch of the company on Lake Kariba where they are incubated for 82 days, hatch, and are cared for. A year later the “batch” is returned and consists of only 17,000 due to premature deaths. These babies are then placed into one of over 100 rectangular enclosures with pools in the middle. We only saw a fraction of the 100, but still what we could see was amazing. These enclosures are cleaned every other day by one man who walks in with thick galoshes and sweeps all of the putrid-smelling croc poop out. The water in the pool is drained at that time and replaced with fresher water to get dirty. This dung-contaminated water, unfortunately, is then dumped into the lake. Also on the same schedule, the crocs get fed. 6 men drop croc-sausages in each pen. These sausages consist of capentha fish, soya, oils, vitamins, supplements, and a large percentage of crocodile meat. Ew. Crocs are designed to be killing machines so any type of meat will be sufficient for them, even if it makes them cannibalistic.

One of the REALLY big boys

After the baby pens, we passed a handful of enclosures filled with at least 45-year-old ones who were all at least 10 feet long and weighed 800-1,000 pounds! Those guys are truly the last living dinosaurs. The older ones’ teeth can reach 5 inches long and 3 inches thick. One of these guys could most likely bite a grown man in half – with ease. After the old monsters, we passed a pen full of albino crocs of the same gigantic size. Their lighter skin makes them much more valuable to buyers, and therefore to the company, even though they receive the same treatment as the others.

Bathing in the pink potassium permanganate

Later in the tour we passed 5 more enclosures of 100-150 crocodiles whose skin had an odd pink hue. The pink water they were in that contained potassium permanganate, a chemical, justified that color. We learned that these were the almost 3-year-old crocs about to be culled. The chemical’s job is to get rid of any fungi and imperfections on the skin that could decrease the value of the precious leather they produce. Also to prevent the value decrease, these crocs’ teeth are filed down and blunted so they cannot bite and puncture each other’s hide.

Making yummy croc sausage for the crocs

To end our tour we passed the small factory where they made the sausages. They grind and mash all the ingredients up and put the sludge into a machine. The machine then squeezes the sludge out into long tubes of the stuff, which looks like one of those Play-Dough toys. The tubes are then cut to make the sausages.

We also witnessed a man cutting out the stomach of a dead croc. When we asked our guide why he was doing this, he answered that the older crocs, some of which were kidnapped from the wild, did not eat the sausages because it didn’t look like game, which their instincts told them they wanted to eat. So, the feeders stuff the nutrient-filled sausages into the croc stomach so the crocs think it is an animal and accept it. We ended our tour and took our tender back to the boat. What really struck me about the farm is that we, as Americans, think of crocodile skin objects as disgusting because it is cruel to animals but our treatment of cows to get leather is the same, or worse, as how this farm treated their crocs. Sadly though, we adore leather and it is very popular while crocodile leather is abhorred even though the cruelty is probably more in the cow-leather industry.

More yummy croc food for the bigger crocs

 

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