South African Crocodile Farm Charged with Cruelty against Crocs.
In high demand from the fashion industry for their skins; crocodile farming has become a substantial, international business over the last three decades or so. At Everything Dinosaur, we frequently report on crocodile attacks and encounters between the public and nuisance crocodiles that pose a threat, but our own species exploiting these ancient creatures is rarely reported upon. However, South Africa’s national society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCA) has brought criminal charges against a crocodile farm based in northern KwaZulu-Natal over the way in which crocodiles are being kept.
SPCA national council inspector Nazareth Appalsamy stated that charges of animal cruelty had been put upon Coen Labuschagne, who runs Metcroc Boerdery as he has allegedly contravened both the South African National Standard of Crocodiles in Captivity Act and the National Animal Protection Act.
Up to two hundred crocodiles, some of which exceed two metres in length are being kept in what has been described as “coffin-shaped” enclosures, less than two metres long, approximately 1.8 metres wide and in water only about thirty centimetres deep. The animals are being kept in what are termed finishing pens. To improve the saleable quality of the animal’s skin, the crocodiles are separated and put into individual pens so that other crocodiles don’t damage the hide. The reptiles are being kept in pens that are so small, that some of the larger animals are unable to turn round or to lie out straight as their body length exceeds the length of the enclosure.
The Crocodile “Finishing” Pens
Picture Credit: SA Mercury/SPCA
Denied shade, heating and the company of other crocodiles animal welfare officers suspect that the animals are suffering considerable distress. Many animals are unable to leave the water that they have been provided with, the pens are just to small to house crocodiles of this size.
Commenting on the conditions, Mr. Appalsamy stated:
“Some of the crocodiles themselves are more than two metres in length and so their tails are bent in the enclosure, or their heads have to be permanently at an angle. They basically cannot lie or rest straight. There is no shade cloth or shelter or any heating requirements, which would be necessary depending on the season.”
He went on to add that the SPCA’s action was supported by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife which also visited the farm to inspect the conditions in which the crocodiles were being kept. It is unfortunate, that whilst the demand for crocodile belts, shoes and handbags still exists there is the temptation to maximise profits at the expense of the animal’s welfare.
A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur commented:
“People get very upset when they hear stories about cruelty to animals that are being kept in captivity for their fur, or when young seals are clubbed to death for their hides, but animal welfare issues extend beyond the “cute and cuddly” and it is important to ensure that other commercial industries such as crocodile farming are properly regulated to.”
SPCA inspector Mr. Appalsamy said that a permit application from Labuschagne had been received about three months ago, but this was opposed, however, the organisation was alerted when another nearby crocodile farmer reported that the pens had been built.
A spokesperson for the SPCA who visited the site, said what they saw was “shocking and cruel.”
According to news sources Mr. Labuschagne was in Mozambique and denied any knowledge of the criminal charges laid against him, he also denied that the conditions in which some of the crocodiles were being housed were considered cruel.
He went onto deny the measurements of the pens as given by the SPCA stating:
“That’s a lie. It is wrong what they are saying. I don’t know where they got those measurements from.”
The case has highlighted welfare conditions for crocodiles in southern Africa and the charges will probably result in court proceedings.