Sunday, July 5, 2015

Croc Farm!


I can't remember exactly how I came to find out about the existence of a crocodile farm in Tana. I think it was when I was looking at a Google map of where our hotel was located - the croc farm showed up as a pin on the map and I clicked on it out of curiosity.  I do remember watching a YouTube video about the farm.  After that, I put it on our itinerary for Tana.


The farm is owned an operated by a company called Reptel Madagascar (also known as Sobek).  The crocodiles at Croc Farm are raised for leather and meat.

From one of the main roads in Tana, Beeo took a left turn and immediately, we were on an unpaved road.  I felt like I was back in the village of Andasibe.



The road led through what I can only describe as a suburban neighborhood which in this part of Tana is effectively a shanty town.  We're just stone's throw from the heart of the city, where concrete buildings sit.

Here, the roof serves as the clothes drying rack.

Although most of the structures were constructed of mud brick, pretty much anything that can serve as building material does.  It's very ramshackle and rundown but it's par for the course here.  I did notice power lines running above the buildings and I presume they also have running water and sewage facilities.  It's a hard life here.




It was a bumpy ride all the way to the farm!  Along the way, we passed alongside the airport.

Beeo parked the car outside the farm's main building and accompanied us inside the gift shop where we bought out tickets.  We had two options - farm alone or farm + restaurant where we could sample croc meat. We went with farm alone.

Once we had out tickets, Beeo left us to go on our own.  The entrance was via what looked like a small greenhouse.  Inside, there were plenty of native plants and a lone parrot.

On the other side was the farm itself.  First order was to use the facilities.  As I waited for George, a man approached me.  He had on a shirt that gave me the impression he worked at the farm.  He pointed me towards an enclosure that had a fossa.  I replied that I was waiting for my friend and stood still. In the meantime, a guinea fowl came to check me out.  Very pretty bird.


It felt like an eternity before George emerged from the men's room.  I was a bit worried but he assured me he was okay.  The hawk eyed Madagascar man was still hovering nearby.  He saw that we were now a pair and approached us.  He wanted to lead us to where the lemurs could be seen.  The farm is home to four sifakas.  With his help, we spotted them up in the trees - Coquerel's sifaka (Propithecus coquereli)




They were a very active bunch, leaping from limb to limb with ease.  They were so fast at times that it was difficult to take a photo of them.


Every now and again, one would leap down to a concrete wall.  I had to be quick on the shutter but I managed to get one shot in before the sifaka was off to its next perch.


George got a snippet of video of a pair of them in action.


They are just about the most charming creatures I've seen in a long time.


By now, we had a de facto guide taking us around and pointing out highlights to us.

Our walk around the farm took us by several enclosures that were home to a few animals including  lizards, birds, turtles, and a pair of angonoka (aka ploughshare) tortoises that just captivated me with their exquisite, patterned shell.  The angonoka tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora) is a critically endangered species of tortoise endemic to Madagascar.  Considering the beauty of their shell, it's no surprise they are endangered.


Not an agonoka tortoise but just as beautiful in its own right.

The critically endangered radiated Tortoise (Astrochelys radiata).  They have a beautiful star pattern on their shell.

Some sort of a lizardy creature.

Barn owl napping until night falls.

Golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus)

A pretty bird.  I have no idea what it is.

Of course, the stars of the farm are the crocs.  We followed our guide to their enclosure which effectively surrounded a very large man made pond.  We passed by the farm's restaurant on the way and I was curious to see what they offered on the menu but there was nothing posted and I couldn't be bothered to ask to see one especially since we weren't going to be eating here.


From the restaurant, there was a small footbridge that led out to a covered pavilion that jutted out over the water.  From there, we could see the crocs.


There were literally dozens of crocs, basking in the warmth of the late morning sun.



Every now and again, one of the massive creatures would make a move, like lift up its head, but otherwise, they were laying dead still.  On the far end of a pond was a large stand of bamboo.  Perched in the branches were dozens of white feathered birds with yellow beaks.  Unfortunately, they were just beyond the power of my zoom lens so I couldn't get a close enough look at them to see what species they were.  Egrets, perhaps?


As we headed back towards the restaurant, we walked over a grassy area where there were more crocodiles, lazing around.




And to make sure we had seen all the crocs the farm had to offer, our guide took us to see a very special one.  A white crocodile.  I was expecting to see an albino creature but instead we saw one that was just a tad lighter skin that his cousins, resting beside him.  If not for our guide explicitly pointing him out to us, I would not have spotted him from the rest of the lot.


Our visiting the farm's star denizen, we walked back towards where we had started our visit.


We strolled past a grove of green and yellow striped bamboo.  I love bamboo and these were particularly beautiful.  Too bad they don't grow in my area.


The entire time we were in the, I realized we were surrounded by trees and vegetation.  It was such a stark contrast to the landscape that we had driven through leading up to this place.  It was as if we were in a small oasis.



Back at our starting point, our guide led us to the herpetarium.  Neither George nor I are fans of reptiles or amphibians so this was not a place that either of us really wanted to be in but since we're here, we made the obligatory visit.

Thankfully, the place was just one small room with a few display tanks.


I ignored all the reptiles except for one which caught my attention because of its name - Zonosaurus maximus.  That translates to *giant zonosaur*.  I've never heard of a zonosaur.  Size wise, they looked like a small lizard to me so if these are the species giants, I don't know what the *regular* ones look like - they must be pretty small.  I'm sure some folks will find these creatures to be beautiful but not me....not a fan.


I focused on the frogs which in Madagascar are very small but very colorful.  I think the ones I saw were all mantellas.




The saddest creature in the herpetarium was the mouse lemur.  He did not look happy - every muscle in his small body was shaking.  Poor thing.


We stepped out of the herpetarium as quickly as we had stepped in.  Our guide had left us but we went back to find him to thank him and to give him his tip.  After that, George and I headed back to the gift store where George checked out the goods.  He was interested in something made from the croc skin but today wasn't his lucky day so he left empty handed.  We met back up with Beeo, who was waiting for us in the car.  We're off to our next destination - Rija's house, where we have to switch cars to continue our long roadtrip towards the west coast.

Onward we go!