Curiously, the entry ticket to the infamous Siem Reap Crocodile Farm reads, “Help Preserve Wild Animals”.
But nothing roams free here. The only wild critters in the farm are angry captive crocs cheesed off with the miserable conditions they endure.
Granted, the farm does actively pursue preservation – a booth near the entrance sells little plastic bags containing preserved internal organs of crocodiles, and the girl at the counter says these are very powerful medicine.
So too, apparently, are the recycled water bottles full of crocodile blood and wine that are also on sale.
The croc farm, on the first bend of the Siem Reap River past the Old Market, has long been a downtown feature, and has long been reviled by expat animal lovers who rank it the pits as far as tourist attractions go.
The farm is simply a series of stark, cement-lined pools housing saurians. Lots of them. Their number includes a collection of huge old crocs, many sporting scars or gaping cuts caused by fighting, and some have even had their tails chomped off.
Local legend holds that these big bull crocs are true man-eaters because people were fed to them by the Khmer Rouge, but there seems to be no historical record attesting to this.
Located as it is on prime riverside real estate, and seemingly always devoid of paying customers, rumours have long swept town that the farm is due to close.
But obviously the Khmer owners think otherwise, and in recent weeks the farm has been undergoing a major revamp, with thatched shelters, ornamental pools and a collection of concrete deer and peacocks installed.
Some basic pens housing forlorn, flustered birds have also been added, but most of the work involves the construction of a large souvenir store.
A large sign has been painted, ready for erection and reading, “Visit Crocodile Farm Nave”. The sign also boasts “1168 Crocodile & Animals”. But then again, who’s counting?