Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How Do You Like Them Crocodiles?

"Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first."

Steve Irwin

Croc Attack
I survived to tell the tale.

In 2005, I took a trip with me college mates to Kuching and tramped around town having illegal quantities of fun. We did the whole Kuching Experience: the Rainforest World Music Festival, the Sarawak Museum, the Sarawak Cultural Village, Damai Beach, trekking and overnight stay at the Bako National Park, obscene amounts of kolo mee, and loads more. My discovery of the local wonder vegetable, midin (which I understand is not cultivated and has to be foraged for in local forests), changed my life. It was actually the decisive factor that made me choose Kuching for my medical internship - and here I am still after making Medical Officer. I will gladly eat this fern to its extinction. It probably tasted as good as the dodos did.

One of the things we did was visit Jong's Crocodile Farm. And I do mean farm. Aside from being a mini menagerie and a place where tourists can gawk at Sarawak's native crocodilian crurotarsans without undue risks to limbs, the proprietors Jong's actually butchers their star attractions for leather and meat. The ancient Chinese believed that partaking in croc-flesh can cure one of bronchial asthma. The ancient Chinese also thought that drinking alcohol is a good idea for breastfeeding mothers, so they were clearly retarded.

Peacock Closeup
With a name like "peacock", they must have gotten teased mercilessly in high school.

While perusing my old camera's SD card, I unearthed some pictures that I've taken during my last visit there in 2011 and I thought I'd share them. Because pictures of gigantic reptilian predators are exactly what the world needs more of apart from peace, sustainable energy and cargo pants. Why is it so hard to find a decent pair of cargo pants these days? And what's the point of pockets on skinny jeans? Sorry, I got carried away there.

As anyone who have observed crocodiles and alligators in (or any kind of poikilothermic metazoans for that matter) knows, they aren't very kinetic sights to behold. Unless they are feeding or fornicating, they are usually doing their best impression of a solar panel - and because of that, they are the animals that children most frequently throw rocks at at zoos. What people really want to see are these primitive, heavily-armoured amphibious weapons of mass evisceration destroy antelopes like they do on nature channels.

Basking Crocs
Hi, we are crocodiles! We like to sit motionless all day with a stupid grin on our faces.

At Jong's, they have designated pools where the crocodile-wranglers in their employ would feed them in front of a spectating audience. They also cranked it up by dangling raw hunks of meat over the middle of the croc pools using some lines and pulleys. That would entice these large languid leviathans into making spectacular vertical leaps out of the water for the benefit of the farm's paying visitors.

Jaws of Death

Croc Feeding

To get the most bang out of their buck, the crocodile-keepers would often jerk the bait out of the crocs' snapping jaws several times before they'd let them have it. It felt a bit mean-spirited but it's really quite hard to feel sorry for these creatures because any animal that grins like that all the time has to some kind of asshole.

Croc Splash

The smarter crocs in the feeding pool would just gather under the little wooden platform from which the croc-feeders dole out the chow and wait for the eventual rainfall of the remaining meat, because what are they going to do? Not feed them?

Feeding Frenzy
Feeding frenzy!

Or, maybe they were just biding their time, watching the stilts supporting the rickety platform rot away bit by bit every day until one day, their captors would fall right into their trap-like jaws where they would be torn until all the king's horses and all the king's men could never put them together again.

Now that's giving them a show they will never forget.

Croc Death Stare
Always grinning, always watching.

My wife went there once in the first few months she moved here to Kuching and hated it because she thought that the animals there were living in appalling conditions and it depressed her. She also disliked the fact that the crocodiles at Jong's would eventually get butchered and have their parts sold in the souvenir shop - which I find strange because she eats chicken, pork, beef and mutton like a dinosaur and have never lamented how those animals were raised for slaughter.

Then again, she's a cat lover so maybe she can only empathise with stone-cold creatures that hunt and kill other living things remorselessly.

If you have zero problems with enjoying the blatant exploitation of these undomesticated predators of Borneo's riverways, you might enjoy a day trip to Jong's Crocodile Farm, situated a 30-minute drive out of Kuching. Aside from their titular attractions, you can also see bearded pigs, iguanas, peacocks, monkeys, Caucasian tourists, freshwater otters and other unusual animals. They even have chronologically arranged enclosures housing live crocodilian specimens ranging from hatch-lings to full-grown man-killers. I particularly enjoyed the gruesome exhibition of pictures and news stories of crocodile attacks that happened in Sarawak (which will help to immunise you from feeling too sorry for these captive beasts at Jong's).

They even claim to house Bujang Senang's skull, a famous white-streaked 20-foot maneater that was shot in 1992. I came from West Malaysia across the South China Sea, and even I had heard of Bujang Senang when I was a wee schoolkid.

But wait a minute, the Sarawak Museum also boasts Bujang Senang's skull in their display so one of them must be lying to children! How dare they?!

P.S. All pictures taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ15.

Husband to a crocodile rights activist,
k0k s3n w4i

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