24 October 2004

China Crocs Crave Calories, Could Use Cialis

The New York Times reports on the tribulations of China's Guangzhou Crocopark.
China's Forestry Department eliminated steep duties on imported breeder crocodiles nearly a decade ago. The hope was that low wages, highly skilled farmers and well-developed road and port networks would turn China into a highly competitive producer of crocodile meat, hides, shoes, purses and other goods.

But impotence, obesity, runny noses and finicky palates among the crocodiles have made this dream difficult to realize. Imported by the tens of thousands from tropical Thailand, the crocodiles have had trouble adapting to slightly cooler southeastern China and have been slow to breed, prone to infections and reluctant to eat anything but expensive chicken breasts.

The biggest problem has been that male crocodiles eat more in the late autumn and early winter here than they do in Thailand. They become so plump that they show little interest in sex during the spring mating season, said Li Mingjian, the deputy general manager of Crocopark Guangzhou here, now one of the world's largest crocodile farms, with 60,000 to 70,000 animals.

"They don't chase the females," he said. "They're very fat guys. They just eat, eat, eat." ...

The next problem did not become apparent for more than a year. Wily Thai crocodile merchants had offered the Chinese buyers a discount if they would accept a mixture of male and female crocodiles of all ages, and warned that it was difficult to identify the genders of young crocodiles.

As the crocodiles grew, it became apparent that the park had far more combat-prone males than it needed, especially as only one male is needed to breed three females.

To make matters worse, many of the larger females proved to be surprisingly old and no longer fertile.

The Thai merchants "would say, 'This lady laid 40 eggs last year,' and the next year she would lay none," Mr. Li recalled. "They were grandmothers."

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