I headed to Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Park, a.k.a. the Palawan Crocodile Farm, with tita Carmen. In the ’70s, crocodiles were hunted extensively for their skin. This resulted in a decline in crocodile population and the creation of a conservation project. Later, in light of illegal trade the mandate was widened to include other animals that have been confiscated. They also are in charge of capturing crocodile which have attacked humans. They say that a crocodile that has tasted human flesh will always attend it again, I wonder if that’s true.
We were met there by one of her nephews who works for the center. You can’t wander in the park on your own, so you must wait for a guided tour, which thankfully are often enough (every 30 minutes I think, but don’t take my word for it on that one). The visit started in the lobby where you could see the bones of a sperm whale and of Rio, who was once the world’s largest crocodile.
Rio was 17,5 feet long male crocodile. Like Lolong, his more famous crocodile counterpart, Rio was taken into custody after killing a fisherman who was fishing in the river with explosive (which is a pretty common practice in these part of the world, from what I understood). Capturing Rio had become a priority in light of this death and was achieved after three days.
Rio had sustained a wound on its belly from the explosive fishing. This combined with the stress of captivity are believed to be the cause of his death
Read more about Rio here.
Seeing the skeleton of this prehistorical marvel was both amazing and somewhat sad. However, let’s say it is an epic way to start the visit though and I wish more people would fully grasp the “epicness” of a 17,5 long crocodile!
The visit proceeds from juvenile crocodiles held in concrete tanks to mature ones which you can observe from a overhead walkway. I heard there was crocodile feedings. I wasn’t lucky enough to witness one, but I suspect it must be impressive enough of a sight!
A few awe-inspiring facts about crocodiles:
- Heard of the expression “crying crocodile tears”? When they eat, air pushed through the sinus can mix with tears in the lacrimal gland, the froth produced then gets emptied into the eyes. So yes, crocodile weep and wipe their eyes when they eat humans – or anything for that matter. Fake remorse for you right there.
- The skin on the bellies is soft and durable (think expensive purses, shoes and belts), while the back skin – which is covered in bones – can deflect arrows, spears and even bullets.
- While a crocodile jaw packs an enormous amount of pressure in closing, it is quite weak when it comes to opening – thus, a mere rubber band will keep it shut.
- They have 80 teeth meant to grasp and crush, but not chew. Which is why they ingest stones to grind the food inside their stomachs.
- Like most cold-blooded reptiles, crocodiles stand on river banks with its mouth open to cool off.
- The 4th tooth of the crocodile on the bottom jaw is visible, which it isn’t for alligators. You can tell them apart that way. For more crocodile/alligator differences, click here!
- With the help of their tails, crocodiles can swim up to 32 km per hour.
- Most crocodiles can stay underwater for up to 2 hours.
- They can burst in short rapid run on land (18 km per hour), but they get tired quickly.
- Crocodiles can lunge out of the water and some species can even do so on land (more about crocodile locomotion here).
- Archosaurs (the common ancester of crocodiles, dinosaurs and birds) appeared 250 millions years ago. The oldest crocodile fossil was found 240 million years ago (Jurassic period). Around 65 million years ago, dinosaurs became extinct. Birds and crocodiles are the only remaining archosaurs.
More facts about crocodiles here and here!
Most people seem to stop their visit at the crocodile facilities, but behind the center lies a park with trails leading up to cages where confiscated animals are cared for. Tita Carmen’s nephew brought us along and he was nice company. I think it’s worth having a look while you are there.
Finally, at the end of the visit you could have a taste of crocodile meat, I skipped it though.