THAILAND is home to some of the world’s biggest crocodile farms, where tourists can see the giant reptiles lounging in the hot sun, chomping on chicken, or swarming in emerald green pools.
Some 1.2 million crocodiles are kept on more than 1,000 farms in Thailand, according to figures from the Thai department of fisheries. Some are equipped with slaughterhouses and tanneries to produce luxury products.
One of Thailand’s biggest farm, Sri Ayuthaya Crocodile Farm, has been operating for 35 years.
“We’re an all-in-one farm, creating jobs for the people, creating income for the country,” said Wichian Rueangnet, the owner of Sri Ayuthaya, which has an estimated 150,000 crocodiles.
Sri Ayuthaya is registered with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), allowing it to legally export products made from the critically endangered Siamese freshwater crocodile, including to top buyer China.
“We do everything from raising crocodiles to slaughtering, tanning and exporting crocodile products.“
Crocodile leather products include Birkin-style handbags, which sell for up to THB80,000 (US$2,356) each and crocodile leather suits, which fetch around THB200,000 (US$5,885), Wichian said.
Crocodile meat is sold for as much as THB300 per kg. The reptile’s bile and blood, made into pills because they are believed to have health benefits, are worth THB40,000 and THB500 per kg, respectively.
The industry has been facing a setback as exports of Thai crocodile leather products fell more than 60 percent in 2016 to THB13 million baht from THB34 million in 2015, Commerce Ministry figures show. – Reuters