Croc-feeding tourists are safe, officials insist

Croc-feeding tourists are safe, officials insist

Tourists feed crocodiles swimming near their partly shielded floating cage at the Elephant Kingdom in Pattaya on Friday. (Photo by Chaiyot Pupattanapong)
Tourists feed crocodiles swimming near their partly shielded floating cage at the Elephant Kingdom in Pattaya on Friday. (Photo by Chaiyot Pupattanapong)

Authorities and the operator of a crocodile farm in Pattaya insist that tourists feeding crocodiles from caged rafts are not in danger.

The safety assurances came after images and video of tourists feeding the crocs from the partially shielded floating platforms went viral on social media this week.

Police, soldiers, livestock, health and forestry officials visited the 48-rai compound of the Elephant Kingdom in tambon Huai Yai of Bang Lamung district on Friday.

The compound breeds about 4,300 crocodiles and gharials, the latter known for their very long and narrow snouts. It has two ponds, one for breeding and the other covering 38 rai for feeding activities. The feeding pond has two floating cages measuring five by 10 metres each, equipped with motors and cables.

The cages are 1.5 metres high and have doors. About 500 visitors, mostly foreigners, take part in feeding activities daily.

Uthen Youngprapakorn, the owner of the attraction, said that originally the compound only bred freshwater and saltwater crocodiles and gharials, but as more tourists started to visit, the feeding activities were introduced to entertain them.

He offered assurances that the floating cages were safe and closely supervised. Each cage could bear a load of about eight tonnes but occupancy was limited to 10-15 people at a time to ensure safety, he said.

The feeding activities have been problem-free and have been featured on many TV programmes, he added.

Mr Uthen said he would take further safety measures to increase people's confidence and comfort.

Pol Maj Gen Amphol Buarabporn, chief of the Chon Buri police, said existing safety measures at the site were sound and should not pose any problem.

He urged the operator to regularly check the facilities and have staff closely supervise the activities.

Elephant Kingdom is associated with the Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm & Zoo, claimed to be the world's largest crocodile farm, in Samut Prakan province. There are also elephants, hornbills, panthers and leopards at the Pattaya compound.

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