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Making a meal of a predator

cricket Updated: May 23, 2009 02:09 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Hindustan Times
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IF YOU are interested in seeing crocodiles ranging from about eight inches in length to over 15 feet, the Crocodile Farm is the place to go to. It's actually a farm that specialises in breeding crocodiles in captivity, sells its meat, skin and various goods made of the skin.

It's one of the few farms of its kind in South Africa and the only one in Gauteng province, about an hour's drive from Johannesburg. As soon as we got in, the old man in the charge of the place pointed to a glass shelf with what looked like a miniature crocodile model in it.

It was only after he opened the window and took it out did we realise that it was actually a baby crocodile, a month old, very much alive and kicking once it was placed on your palm. It's exactly like a small replica. The scales are in place and the teeth unmistakably prominent although they are too young to harm.

Started in 1999 with about 150 crocodiles and a licence from the Department of Nature Conservation, this place run by Anton and Marietjie Lotter has over 3000 in the farm now. They had to obtain a separate licence in 2006 to display the creatures and there are over 100 kept in three different ponds for visitors to see.

The Lotter couple were not around when we visited and the person taking us through the place was called Theums Du Prez. He said that crocodile meat and skin are in great demand and there are very few places which produce them.

The three ponds house different age groups of crocodiles. The first one keeps crocs which are below two years and grow up to two metres, the second one has those between five to seven years which are about three metres long. The third pond is for the big ones which are between 40 to 60 years. The biggest of this lot is 5.3 metres and weighs 650 kg.

“They are slaughtered only when they grow 1.6 metres and are 30 cm wide around the chest,” said Du Prez. The meat is sold from the farm, frozen and in vacuum packets. Some of it is marinated, some cut to size and 500 grams of the stuff costs 75 rand (about Rs 427).

The farm sells goods made of crocodile skin and also exports them.

It is a costly affair and a small wallet costs 1350 rand (about Rs 7700). They also sell crocodile skulls and crocodile oil, which is supposed to be good for those suffering from skin problems. Even if you are not interested in them, just to see so many crocodiles at the same place, it's worth a trip to the farm.