Close encounter with crocodiles

Adeline Liong

Have you ever held a live crocodile before? I did so for the first time in my life last Saturday. Never mind that the crocodile was small at about two feet long.

The exciting experience happened to me at the famous Jong’s Crocodile Farm in Kuching. I went there with a nephew, his wife and children.

After lunch at his family’s favourite chicken rice shop, my nephew asked me, “Would you like to see crocodiles with us?”

I was hesitant at first because I had a dinner function later that evening and I thought of conserving my energy and relaxing at home first.

“Join us, lah! You have ample time to get ready,” my nephew said.

Now, there is a general saying in my family, “Don’t turn down good fortune.”

After a while, I said yes, and off we went — my nephew, his wife and three sons plus my mother and I.

I have visited Jong’s Crocodile Farm a few times, especially when I was reporting for the Brunei-based Borneo Bulletin when it was a weekly decades ago.

It has been a long time since I last visited it and with the passing of time, much has changed at the tourist attraction. It definitely has more staff now and is better managed.

Last Saturday afternoon, there was a big crowd when we lined up at the entrance to buy our tickets. I saw parents with their children and kindergarten teachers with their pupils.

Jong’s Crocodile Farm opens daily from 8am to 5pm and the admission charge for a Sarawakian adult is RM14 and RM7 for a Sarawakian child (3 – 12 years old).

For a non-Sarawakian adult, the charge is RM24 and RM12 for a non-Sarawakian child (3-12).

As we entered the premises, we saw visitors posing with a small live crocodile. Of course, all members of my family wanted to have our pictures taken with the crocodile.

The reptile, which had its jaws taped, did not wriggle or struggle when I held it with my two hands. Crocodiles are cold-blooded reptiles and yes, its body felt cool. I could not resist touching the rough skin just to get a feel of it!

I was surprised when my mother, an Alzheimer’s patient, also wanted to hold the crocodile in her hand! When she was younger and healthier, she used to scold us for doing funny things.

When we finished exploring the farm hours later, tourists were still posing with the crocodile. I wonder whether they ever let other crocodiles take its place. That particular crocodile must be the most photographed reptile on the farm — judging from the hundreds of photographs visitors take with it that day! It must also be the most visitor-friendly crocodile on the farm.

One of the farm’s most famous exhibit is definitely the skull of “Bujang Senang”, the white-backed 19-foot-long killer crocodile killed at Sg Pelaban, Lingga, Batang Lupar on May 20, 1992. On a wall are interesting pictures of the crocodile being transported to Kuching.

I can remember slightly how the killing of the crocodile made the headlines in the newspapers including Sarawak Tribune then. I was a sub-editor in the newspaper then.

The farm also has a wall devoted to the Legend of Bujang Senang. According to the legend, hundreds of years ago, there lived a fearsome Iban warrior from Saribas called Lungu. He appeared to have supernatural powers that made him invulnerable.

After he had killed several enemies, the people of Batang Lupar appealed to Lungu’s wife for help. She revealed that he would lose his powers if he touched the waters of the Batang Lupar.

Soon after, the people ambushed Lungu and dragged him down to the river. There, they chopped his head off and buried him upside down in the shallow water.

But the deities turned him into a white crocodile called Bujang Senang and from then on Lungu took revenge on his murderers and their descendants.

There are also many pictures of other killer crocodiles and their victims on display at Jong’s Crocodile Farm. If you are not in a hurry, you can take your time to read everything on the walls.

The farm is now also home to big crocodiles like “Pak Indon” and “Bujang Sadong”. Find out more about them on the farm.

The highlight of our visit to the farm was definitely the crocodiles’ feeding time at one of the ponds at 3pm.

Long before 3pm, visitors were already hogging the best seats behind high fences to view the crocodiles at feeding time.

The farm workers strung chicken parts on high wires above the pond, forcing the crocodiles to jump for their food. The reptiles which succeeded were those which managed to clamp down on the meat with their massive jaws as they jumped.

The competition among the crocodiles in the pond was intense. The reptiles which succeeded were really huge! They were big and long. I wondered what happened to the unsuccessful reptiles. Do they get to eat at all? Will the workers feed them?

Besides crocodiles, there are other creatures on show at the farm like iguanas, civets, otters, bull frogs, Arapama (fish from Amazon), peacocks, squirrels, pythons and even goats.

There are souvenir shops and a food and drink shop at the premises as well.

Jong’s Crocodile Farm is a good place for families to visit and spend quality time together.

I am glad I followed my nephew to the farm last Saturday. Now, I have more beautiful memories to treasure with him, his family and my mother.

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