Sunday, June 13, 2010

Miri Crocodile Farm and Mini Zoo

By Rosli Abidin Yahya

One place worth visiting during this school holiday is the Miri Crocodile Farm and Mini Zoo which is only a short drive from the Brunei border of Sungai Tujuh in Kuala Belait.

Located at Lot 164, 24km Miri-Kuala Baram Road, near Kuala Baram River Mouth (previous ferry terminal for Bruneians to go to Miri), students and visitors can take a leisure and educational tour around the farm to learn about the animals and their habitat.

Visitors can reach the farm and mini zoo through a pleasant scenic coastal drive along Miri-Kuala Baram Road.

From the new control posts and past the Asean Bridge, it will take Bruneians only about 10 minutes to reach the farm. From Miri itself, the farm can be reached in 20 minutes.

Bruneians will need to pay RM20 (about B$8) to gain entrance while Malaysians will only be charged RM15 (B$6).

The farm opens seven days a week from 9am to 6pm and visitors may find it worthwhile to come around the feeding times of the crocodiles at 10.30am, 11.30am, 2.30pm and 4.30pm so they can see how crocodiles are fed.

The crocodile farm cum mini zoo is the first and the largest crocodile farm in the northern region of Sarawak and is registered and recognised by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Visitors will come face to face with more than 2,000 Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus Porosus) and Malayan Gharial (Tomistoma Schlegelii) in a 22-acre landscaped setting with natural breeding enclosure and perfectly man-made sanctuary ponds specially carved out for the creatures.

A stroll around its perimeter allows visitors to safely view an amazing collection of crocodiles up close. But do not try to put your hand over the fence as the crocodiles may jump and snapped them, as a warning sign shows.

Visitors will learn why crocodiles need to be conserved.

The crocodiles were captured mainly in Southeast Asia and Northern Australia where their natural habitat can be mangrove swamps, rivers and open sea.

The diet comprise of marine and land animals such as wild pigs, monkeys, deer and water birds.

A crocodile lays about 20 to 50 eggs in a nest mound of earth and vegetation, which it zealously guards. The young call from inside the eggs when they are ready to emerge, after an incubation of 86 to 90 days.

Solitary by nature, crocodiles gather in small groups during the breeding seasons, where males compete for the female's attention.

Wild estuarine crocodiles have been greatly reduced in number due to habitat destruction as well as hunting by man for the valuable skin. This species thrives in large numbers in crocodile farms throughout their range.

A good example of this was seen when the crocodiles were exterminated in the Nile and the tilapia fishery declined. This was because the crocodiles controlled the numbers of catfish which fed predominantly on the eggs and the young of the commercially valuable tilapia fish.

Crocodiles also help to improve the genetic quality of other species by feeding on weak, sick and injured fishes, birds and mammals.

At the farm, the crocodiles are bred not only for conservation but also for their commercial value. The crocodiles were also slaughtered for their flesh (a delicacy for some) and skin.

Aside from crocodiles, visitors can take an adventurous stroll through the farm, you come face to face with some exotic animals such as Southern Cassowary, Python, Binturong, Sun Bear, Gibbon, Porcupine and a band of cheerful monkeys.

The different species of foreign and domestic animals are kept in spacious cages separated from the visitors. Visitors are allowed to feed the animals with bananas available at the canteen.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

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