Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Croc Farm" of Vakona Hotel


The Vakona Hotel near Andasibe, Madagascar, has a "Croc Farm," in addition to "Lemur Island" of the last post. This "farm" contains many Nile crocodiles of various ages and sizes, as well as cages with a variety of other animals, including wild ducks, other birds, endangered tortoises, and perhaps saddest of all, fossa. The fossa is one of the islands only predators. Neither a cat and or a dog, it's related to the mongoose and is about the size of a medium dog, with a longer tail and a reddish coat. (See picture above). Fossa are highly endangered. While active in both day and night, they do a lot of hunting nocturnally. Unfortunately, at Vakona, they are kept in a small cage with a concrete floor and no enrichment (no toys, things to climb, etc.), and are fed a steady diet of zebu meat, not a nutritionally balanced meal. Once again, the animals' needs are not being met. The male had a spot on his back that was hairless, near the tail, and looked almost like he had some sort of mange. Supposedly this pair of fossa had a litter of babies and the owner has taken those on as personal pets.

I have a harder time feeling bad for the crocodiles, but then any animal in captivity has my sympathy. There are over 30 crocodiles, sorted into enclosures by age and size. They are fed zebu meat once a week, and I happened to be there after a feeding, so some of the blood was still dripping off the jaws of the crocodiles lounging on the banks. One nerve-wracking part of visiting the 'Croc Farm" is that you have to cross a bridge which is extremely rickety and made of ropes and boards - nothing anchored to the ground at all. It is strung like a very, very, very long hammock across an area about 75 - 100 feet long. When you walk across it there is a lot of movement and you are hanging over water teeming with crocodiles. I did not have any confidence it was properly engineered so I walked quickly.

I have no idea why anyone would want to have this many crocodiles, and I couldn't find out from the guide whether their meat or skin was being harvested and sold; he said no but then couldn't tell me why there were so many.

I was just over the fence from the resting crocs so I got a few good photos. My favorite, a close up of a crocodile eye, is posted above. Overall, the "Croc Farm" appears to be like a private zoo, again without animal nutrition or health care, or any enrichment programs. There are boa constrictors and a variety of other small animals in cages. At the end there is a strange and very small museum of sorts with some information about the graphite mine that operates next door to the hotel (no idea if it has the same owner).

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