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Farm tourism: How Kenyan crocodile, snake farm brings income to owner

If you want to see a crocodile that has lived 110 years on earth, then visit the Mamba Crocodile Farm in Mombasa, the second biggest…

If you want to see a crocodile that has lived 110 years on earth, then visit the Mamba Crocodile Farm in Mombasa, the second biggest city in Kenya after Nairobi, the seat of the government.

The life of the 800-pound, five-meter-long male crocodile known as “Big Daddy,”  the deadliest reptile in the farm, was brought to the farm in 1986 from River Tana, where it had killed five people, but the body is still preserved.

The crocodile farm, which was founded in 1972, had roughly 12,000 crocodiles at first, including ‘Big Daddy,’ which lived there with his two ‘wives’ named ‘Salma and Sasha,’ in a different pond.

The Mamba Crocodile Farm located at Beach Road roundabout, off Links Road, Nyali, Mombasa, still housed the remains of the 110-year-old Kenyan deadliest reptile.

The farm has 21 ponds that are each roughly 50 feet by 100 feet in size. One of the ponds was devoted to “Big Daddy,” that lived there with his two “wives.”

One of the farm managers told Daily Trust on Sunday that the farm used to provide crocodile meat in restaurants that serve many Asian and European visitors and other locals who could afford it, in addition to providing the skin, which were in high demand globally.

Today, the farm is a major tourist site in Kenya, bringing money not only to the farmer, but also the government through taxes. Other lines of business also include hatching the reptiles, then later selling the hatchlings. One crocodile could sell for as much as N150,000, depending on age and size.

Mamba Farm was situated in a region that formerly housed a limestone quarry used by Bamburi Cement. The abandoned area was later restored in the 1980s, and today, it serves as an interesting tourist destination for both Kenyans and foreign visitors, bringing in money for the farm’s owner.

One of the farm supervisors said the area was initially used as a quarry and a dumpsite before being transformed by USAid and an American insurance company into a conservation area for reptiles. The owner, Mr Hezron Awiti, a onetime Kenyan parliamentarian, eventually purchased the area in partnership with an Israeli businessman.

According to the farm tour guide, the owner purchased all of the shares from the Israeli investor in 1995 and is currently the only owner of the farm.

Foreign visitors to the farm pay an equivalent of N4,000 (800 Kenyan Shillings) per person to visit the farm that once supplied crocodile meat to restaurants within the region.

Since crocodiles thrive in temperatures above 30 degrees, Mombasa’s climate is favourable for the reproduction of these reptiles.

Although the number of crocs have significantly reduced due to COVID-19, which imposed restrictions on the international movement and trade forcing the farmer to downside the population because of the challenges of feeds, the farm still has a good number of crocodiles.

The farm also stocked deadly African snakes like the black mamba, black spitting cobra, Puff Ader snake, red spitting cobra and many other species of snakes native to Africa.

Apart from crocs and snakes, the farm also breeds over 15 expensive species of ornamental fish in addition to tilapia production and other ornamental flowers, which brings income to the farmer.

When it comes to breeding, the farm can actually determine the sex of crocs they want; this is because the sex of crocs is determined by the amount of temperature the eggs are subjected to. When it is cool, around 30 °C or below, 100 per cent of the hatchlings are female. However, all male eggs hatch at warmer temperatures, around 34 °C and above. These temperatures can therefore be determined in the incubator.

A farm guide explained, “If we want males, we control the temperatures, and most of the time we want the males because of their size, which is also a determining factor that influences price.”

Although they are edible, the farm does not sell its roughly 3,000 crocodile-produced eggs for human consumption. But not all eggs are hatched in incubators.

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