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400 Day LETS Odyssey
Copyright � James Taris

JAMES TARIS around the World- (2003-4)

A crocodile park in France? Who would've thought!

FRANCE - Montellimar (Wk.2 of 3 weeks)
Week 11 of World Tour

1. World Premier Booked For London

Yep, it's official!

I've found an 80 seat theatre in London which has agreed to promote and stage my play with ME as the solo performer!

It'll run for 2 nights at the end of November and, man, am I excited!

2. Crocodiles Tortoises And Elephants

Crocodiles live all along the earth's Equator, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, so you'll never see any crocodiles as far north as France, unless of course, you go to Pierrelatte.

Pierrelatte is a very small town just 10 minutes south of Montelimar by train. As a township, it's pretty ordinary, except for . the Crocodile Farm!

The Crocodile Farm is not a zoo. Yes, it's open to the general public and it has exhibits of many different breeds of crocodiles and aligators (and more recently, giant tortoises!), but that's about where it stops. The function of the Crocodile Farm is to . farm crocodiles!

What for?

Well, first of all, there are about 350 crocodiles on the property. And most of them are very much 'adult'. That is, they're between 2.5 and 3.5 metres (8-11 ft.) long! But they weren't like that when they arrived. Back in 1991, they were brought from the African Nile when they were just wee babies, and only 50 cms (20 in.) long.

But excellent 'housing' facilities and lots of tender loving care has seen them grow marvelously to their current heavy-weight sizes.

And they're breeding!

The mix of males and females has been thoughtfully considered so that each male (the larger crocodiles) has his own little harem of about 7 females. And even though they're all in one very large enclosure, each male has carved out his own little territory, so heaven help any other croc who dares to wonder in and make eyes at one of his lovely ladies!

And the enclosure?

It's built like a natural jungle setting, with a long waterway, lots of trees and large areas of shoreline for sunbaking (crocs only!). They've even introduced birds and fish into their environment to make it look more natural. Interestingly enough, even though the crocodiles could eat the fish, they never do. Because they're fed quite generously every 3-4 days (Wednesdays and Saturdays) and their food takes 72 hours to digest. So the fish are swimming in relatively safe waters!

And it's a virtual hot house, where the temperature inside is kept to a constant tropical level of about 30 degs. And the air is kept very humid by jets of fine mist which is sprayed all around, every minute or so. In fact, the jets are cleverly placed above the wooden ramps which wind throughout the enclosure (and out of the crocodiles' reach) so that you can cool yourself down by standing in front of it.

It's a very professionally run business, where the farm staff are all dressed in a khaki uniform and very helpful when it comes to sharing information. And if you're a little shy to go up and ask, there are several educational presentations held throughout the enclosure every hour, on the hour.

Crocodiles live for about 100 years, but this farm isn't a retirement centre for aged crocs, and the last place they'll never appear is on a restaurant menu or as crocodile shoes or belts. Believe it or not, these crocs are bound to be taken back home. Back to the African Nile where their numbers have declined in recent years.

In fact, the Pierrelatte Crocodile Farm's breeding program is so highly regarded that they've even been entrusted with 2 very rare Chinese Crocodiles (only 25 left in the wild!). Other crocodiles on display are the smaller slender-nosed versions such as the caymans. And I was fortunate to be present when they were being fed in their small glass enclosures. A bucket full of eels was emptied into each enclosure so that there were about 2 eels for every cayman. And these eels swam around happily while the reptiles simply ignored them . momentarily. But just 20 minutes later, there wasn't a live eel in sight. There were a couple of half-eaten eels, one on the shore and one in the water, but I guess these would've also been snapped up soon after I left.

But let me finsh with the tortoises and the elephants.

Tortoises big enough to ride on!

Even though giant tortoises lived naturally on the Galapagos Islands and the Seychelles, nowadays, giant tortoises can only be found 'wild' on Anatola Is., on the east coast of Africa and just a little north of Madagascar. This is because the water is too shallow for ships to moor there and they are safe to live and breed in peace. And they sure do breed! This island is such a paradise for the giant turtles that there are 100,000 of them living there. But maybe that's because they just refuse to die. Giant tortoises are known to live for up to 150 years!

Anyway, the Crocodile farm received some of these tortoises in 1994, when they were only 7 kgs. (15 lbs.), but now they've grown to 35 kgs. (77 lbs.). And they won't end up as turtle soup either. This farm is all about giving these large reptiles life and a future.

And the elephants?

Well, I didn't get to see them. But they must've been there. After all, there was a road sign warning us to be careful because elephants crossed there. And there were elephant footprints where the elephants must've crossed some time ago, even though the concrete had set firmly since then. But the most convincing evidence was the picketed enclosure which the elephants had broken through and left a generous deposit of . er . elephant poo. Or was that just the farmer's sense of humour?

This article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey

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