Saturday, 29 September 2007

Johnstone River Crocodile Farm

ON our first day at CVA, we were taken to Hartley's Creek Crocodile Farm, and then spent two weeks in the rainforest such that by the end we were a little rainforested-out. Today we boarded OzExperience for the first time, whereupon they took us to a rainforest, and then a crocodile farm.

Hartley's had been enjoyable - we rode a boat and the feeding of the crocs was exciting, if a little unfair, with animals teased in the name of entertainment. It was here that Kirsty and I were chased by a cassowary, and where we met Davo the galah. From the very second we arrived at Johnstone River Crocodile Farm in Innisfail this morning, however, I knew that I was going to despise it.

While waiting in the car park, the owner Mick boarded to smuggle us in on an OzExperience hush-hush 'cheap rate'. Immediately he began boasting about the size of the crocodiles they had, how you could have the opportunity to be bitten by a snake (a free drink would be offered if you were) and made lots of predictable jokes about which nationality would be fed to the crocodiles first (Canadians for the record). He was brash and imposing and from his tone it was evident that crocodiles and other animals would be taunted in the name of an exciting show.

But then he did something horrendous. He announced that crocodiles could be lurking anywhere, and proceeded to pull a live baby croc from inside his shirt and threw it at Rose, an English girl sat two seats ahead. He then ordered us off, took our money and passed us on to Alexander, our German guide.

Alexander first showed us a cassowary - kicking the fence and mocking the bird, claiming it didn't like Germans. This of course was not the case. The cassowary simply did not like being threatened and teased. Alexander poked it with a rake too.

Next up were the american alligators, who hissed when he kicked their fence.

He then ordered us down a narrow pathway, armed with bread, to feed some kangaroos. The pathway narrowed and considering the previous few moments since arrival, we began to feel caged in and paranoid, as if we were being led into a trap. Maybe some hungry taipan were lined up for the kill or a giant man-eating, flat-faced kangaroo had been found alive and was waiting for its dinner! In fact no, some tame and docile normal kangaroos were sat waiting for us, and I was quite content sat on the floor with an audience of megapods munching happily on their rolls.

This contentment did not last long. Next up was the crocodile feeding, and it was worse than I had predicted. Mick poked and taunted crocodiles - even sat on one - and treated them like a circus act. This, of course, is what they were. This is a farm. They grow crocodiles in cramped conditions with hundreds of others (and crocodiles are not naturally social creatures), deprive them of direct daylight (they showed us the pens, I know this to be true) and then kill them to make handbags. Those that are too dangerous, or for whatever reason do not pass the test, are turned into circus acts to bolster revenue.

Mick is a cruel man, an imbecile, and stronger things besides.

The other reason why I don't like him is thus: at the end of the tour, there was an opportunity to hold a baby croc. By my positioning, I was unable to say no. Yet while I was holding the poor creature, Mick snuck up behind me and threw a snake on my back.

Snakes are my only phobia. I froze, paralyzed by terror. I knew that health and safety would never allow it to be a posionous snake, but this was a madman, who treats animals like dirt. I had no idea what was slithering over me, and I became extremely paranoid when the snake decided to explore the back of my neck. All the while, Mick had wandered off and started shoving another snake down one man's trousers, thus taking his attention away from the evil thing making me shake. I shouldn't complain of course, the other man had a snake being shoved down his trousers, but each man has a separate fear threshold. I was beyond mine. Eventually Alexander came by and politely asked whether I might like to give the snake to someone else to give them a go. I didn't need to be asked twice.

Johnstone River Crocodile Farm is a bad place, and I encourage you never to go there.

Blimey! I realise the last few blogs have been rants. I promise the next one will be happy!


Anonymous said...

I have nothing but praise for the professional tour I went on yesterday at the Johnstone crocodile farm. The guides were very informative and there unconditional love for crocodiles was obvious. The way they spoke passionately about rescuing troublesome crocs that would otherwise be shot by national park rangers due to the risk of human interaction. Yes it is a crocodile farm; for you to state that the ‘farmed crocs’ don’t receive any direct sunlight demonstrates either how ignorant and/or naive you are. Crocodiles are cold-blooded animals that gain 50% of their energy from the SUN, hence the greenhouse cover to retain the energy from the SUN. Your comments are delusional and defamatory. If you suffer from a phobia get medical help; don’t visit an interactive reptile park that clearly states what the show involves and is about.

Simon said...

Dear Anonymous,

Please see