Thursday, January 5, 2012

Samut Prakarn's Crocodile Farm, Part 1

A crocodile smiles a welcome at the farm in Samut Prakarn

The Samut Prakarn Crocodile Farm and Zoo just outside of downtown Bangkok claims to be the largest in Thailand, and that's probably true.  It's without a doubt the largest I've seen or heard of, and even if it isn't the largest farm it's home to the largest crocodile in captivity, Yai (meaning large); born at the farm in 1972, a couple of years after it opened.  If you want to drop him a card his birthday's June 10.

Nearly 20 feet long and weighing in at 2,465 pounds (or 1118Kg) he is one big reptile, even being awarded his own listing in the Guinness Book of World Records.  The photo below is one by the Farm, as both times I've seen him he's been mostly submerged and I haven't gotten a clear shot of him myself.

Nearly 20 feet Yai is indeed a large beast

Yai is just one of 100,000 crocodiles the farm claims to have on its 300 acres of grounds, in addition to a wide variety of other flora and fauna. I didn't attempt an inventory, but there were crocs of every size, color and variety; enough for the most rabid fan.

For those who prefer their reptiles ready to wear there are plenty of shops and places to buy belts, bags, purses, briefcases and other items made from the  specimens raised on the farm, both for their skins and for the edible meat.

The farm was opened in 1970, the brainchild of Utai Youngprapakorn. His original intent was much as it still is today: preserve the many varieties of crocodiles from extinction and provide a source of skins for the fashion industry in an effort to curb poaching in the wild.  It's probably been a beneficial arrangement for all but those who've been harvested for shoes and the likes.

In addition to the reptile menagerie you'll also find areas for elephants, monkeys, birds, camels, lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) around the grounds, with an elephant show in its own small stadium.  It was here on my first visit to the Land of Smiles that I found myself atop an elephant for the first time and crouched tentatively next to a tiger and a crocodile to have my photo taken.  The tiger was somewhat sedated, but the crocodile was a meter longer than I am tall, and freshly hauled out of the water around the small "stage" island that a few of us were led out onto to pay Bt100 for the privilege of risking being bitten.  Crocodiles have a total of 65 teeth - 35 on top, 30 on the bottom - and a vice-like grip once their jaws clamp down and that made me think twice, but I did it anyway.

There's a train to take you around the park, if you want, or you can hire a horse-drawn carriage to take you and a friend around.  Paddle your way around on a small foot-powered pedal boat across a large pond (without crocodiles in it, naturally) or just wander the grounds on foot - there are plenty of places to stop and rest, and the grounds are nicely landscaped; planted to provide shade on the paths.

One small section of a series of elevated walkways above the large crocodile ponds
Presentations and shows happen on the hour (for elephants) or half hour (for the crocodile wrestling) throughout the day from 09:00 to 17:00, and there are other demonstrations and things going on, too.  You can purchase raw chicken to drop from the elevated walkways into the snapping jaws of crocodiles who whip their bodies and tails around, knocking each other around in a frenzy to get at said tidbits.

Crocodiles fighting over chicken dropped from the walkway above

Albino and differently colored specimens are on view in many spots, some communally and some in solitary enclosures.  I suggested to my Thai friend that maybe these isolated ones didn't play well with others, and looked at me wide-eyed and said "I wouldn't want to play with any of them!"

Rather than make the post too long again I'll split this into two or three parts. In the next post I'll share more images of the crocodiles themselves and maybe some of the elephants.  I'm adding a couple of images (below) from their hand-out for those of you who want to read their translations to Chinese and French, and a map giving a rough idea of where it is.  More on that next time, too.


krobbie said...

I do wish they wouldn't make the animals do things in shows. I don't mind a watching feeding and such but the old "poke the croc with a bamboo stick and see what happens", leaves me cold. Also the elephant shows. These fantastic beasts are fine with out having to play soccer or basketball and paint pictures. I much prefer a sedate dawdle around and about atop the mighty pachyderm.

Same same, monkey shows and the like.


I-Dont-Want-To-Use-Blogger said...

How did Samut Prakhan fair during the floors? Could this be the source of the (a bit more than) rumours that crocs were seen in the floodwaters? And, has the farm opened since the floods?

Your story entices me to go when next I am in LoS.

Cheers, Yraen

khunbaobao said...

Keith, I know your feelings about the shows are shared by many.

I tend to agree with you to a certain degree, too, but since I was planning to address the issue in the upcoming post about the shows I'll hold my tongue here today.