Vegetarian Crocodiles? You Better Believe It!
The idea that the mighty crocodile which can shred its prey to pieces within minutes, would even glance at a vegetable let alone eat it, seems almost insulting. But don't tell that to the residents of the Nyanyana crocodile farm that lies on the shores of the world's largest artificial lake, Zimbabwe's Lake Kariba. They apparently are completely vegetarian.
Oliver Kamundima, the financial director of the farm says the transition to vegetarianism was accidental. In 2006, when Zimbabwe was undergoing an economic crises, the company found it impossible to find affordable meat to feed the 164,000 crocodiles that were being raised in the farm. Desperate, they started feeding the reptiles with pellets that were a mix of meat and vegetables. After noticing that the change in diet did not seem to deter the reptile's growth, they gradually eliminated the meat completely and are now raising crocodiles that are 100% vegetarian.
In addition to saving money, the officials at Padenga holdings claim that the carefully devised diet that comprises of perfect proportions of protein concentrate, minerals, vitamins, maize meal and water has been good for the crocodiles. For one, they are a lot mellower and spend a bulk of their day sleeping. This makes it safer for the workers to clean their enclosures.
However, even more important is that the vegetarian crocodiles seem to have skin that is softer and more supple than those that eat meat. While that may not be important for the crocodiles that live in the wild, it is for the ones at this farm. That's because the reptiles are bred for their skin, which is sold to European tanneries where it is transformed into leather and sold to fashion houses like Hermes and Gucci to make expensive handbags, shoes and belts. We wonder if this diet would work for crocodiles in the wild!
Reading Comprehension (3 questions)
- What is unusual about the reptiles that live at Nyanyana crocodile farm?
- How did they turn this way?
Critical Thinking Challenge
How do you feel about the crocodiles being bred for their skin? Is it...