A crocodile farm with a grisly past struggles to attract tourists

A crocodile farm with a grisly past struggles to attract tourists

090604_08b.jpg
090604_08b.jpg

Photo by:
Kyle Sherer

Lim Chhay owns crocodile farm in Siem Reap with 600 crocs and nearly 3,000 eggs.

LIM Chhay, owner of a Siem Reap crocodile farm, is gearing up for his yearly harvest of hatchlings. His crocodiles will stop laying eggs as the rainy season hits, and after 80 to 90 days of incubation, he will welcome a new generation of baby reptiles, which he can sell on the market for US$10 to $15 each.

Lim Chhay houses just more than 600 crocodiles in his pens, and has almost 3,000 eggs as a result of the latest breeding season. The egg count is slightly lower than last year, but he is heartened by a rise in demand from Thai and Vietnamese buyers. "People want more crocodiles this year," he said.

Each year, Lim Chhay sells newborn crocs across the border, where they are raised in better conditions before being killed for their skin. But despite the increase in demand from foreign buyers, Lim Chhay has experienced an overall drop-off in profits due to a lack of tourists. For $3 per person, Lim Chhay will show travellers the crocodile pits, which he said once served a morbid purpose.   

"In the Khmer Rouge time, the soldiers would take people here and feed them to the crocodiles, so they didn't have to kill them with bamboo spears and dispose of the bodies," Lim Chhay said.

Many of the older crocodiles who once served the Khmer Rouge as man-eaters still remain at the farm, he said.

"I estimate the oldest ones to be 50 to 80 years old," Lim Chhay said. "You can tell they are very old by the white skin on their snouts."

The deteriorated and battle-scarred skin of Lim Chhay's older crocodiles makes their hides worthless. But Lim Chhay also refuses to sell them for their meat. "I don't want to kill them," he said. "Their life is as valuable as mine."

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