KOTA KINABALU - The Sandakan Crocodile Adventure Land, reputedly the country's largest crocodile farm, has been ordered to temporarily close for the operators to improve conditions for the reptiles as well as the captive animals at its mini zoo.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, who issued the order on Friday, said the farm would remain closed until further notice following an outcry by animal activists.
The farm is sited on a 2.3ha plot of land adjacent to the Sulaiman Highway, Tuaran, more than 30km from here and reportedly houses more than 1,000 crocodiles.
Besides captive breeding and farming, the park also produces raw skin and crocodile meat marketed locally and internationally.
The crocodylus porosus type of crocodile, better known locally as buaya tembaga (because of its bronze-like colour), is the type mostly bred at the farm, which also has a mini zoo that keeps, among others, bearcats, pythons, ostriches, peacocks, noisy gobbling turkeys, catfish, monitor lizards, and Japanese, or mini chickens.
Animal rights group Friends of the Orangutan recently raised an issue with the department and other state officials over alleged poor condition that was causing stress to the animals.
Group director Upreshpal Singh, when showing photographs to support the allegation, said the ostrich was nearly bald without feathers, macaques (monkeys) were kept in an empty cage without any ropes or trees to swing from and crocodiles kept in filthy enclosures.
"The crocodile show is abusive and must be stopped. The reptiles are prodded with sticks and forced to follow the commands of the handlers for the pleasure of visitors," said Upreshpal, who led members of his group to the farm.
He said the wildlife department must confiscate the animals as there was little effort done to care for the welfare of the creatures.
It is learnt that while it was among the places promoted by tour companies after it started in 2005, the farm had lately been dropped from their itinerary following criticisms by tourists on the conditions of the captive animals and the farm.
Comments posted online showed that many tourists were concerned about the conditions and were hoping action would be taken by the farm operators to make improvements.