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The crocodile king of Khanh Hoa

Tran Van Son is known as the “crocodile king” in Khanh Hoa Province on the central coast, and the title seems well suited. The 45-year-old is the first breeder of crocodiles in Khanh Hoa and now cares for some 1,000 crocodiles in a newly built farm owned by Khanh Viet Corp., or Khatoco.

Tran Van Son looks at a crocodile
at the farm without fear.

The farm is located in a valley in Khanh Phu Commune in Khanh Vinh District, some 40km from Nha Trang, the capital of Khanh Hoa.

Previously, the 1,000 crocodiles were raised at Xuan Son Farm in Vinh Hiep Commune, some 20 kilometres from Khanh Phu.

Born in the northern province of Thanh Hoa, in 1980 Son began to work as a policeman in the Central Highlands provinces of Kon Tum and Gia Lai.

Then he moved to Nha Trang and worked for 18-4 Co., which raised monkeys for export to the former Soviet Union. In 1996, 18-4 was merged into Khatoco, and Son was sent to Ho Chi Minh City to learn how to breed crocodiles.

Returning to Nha Trang, Son got his nickname, being the only one there who was able to approach the reptiles with their thick, armour-like skin, long, tapering jaws and, most significantly, sharp teeth.

Son says he loves raising crocodiles though it is very hard and dangerous work. The man with the dark skin is now managing Khatoco’s crocodile farm, which is surrounded with steel trellis to keep the crocodiles from curious people. The reptiles are raised in many 100-square-metre pools.

Son says the mother crocodiles like to soak themselves in the water at noon, while their youngsters prefer to hide from the sunlight in the shade of the banana trees next to the pools.

“Crocodiles, except the ones well-trained for circus acts, are usually unfriendly to humans,” Son says.

“However, I can go up to them closely as I have been raising them for a long time,” he explains while opening the door of a cage that is home to dozens of adult crocodiles.

Some of them are more than 15 years old, and each weighs from 100 to 200 kilograms.

To call the crocodiles, Son purses his lips to impressively make the right sounds that signal the time for food.

Recognizing the familiar whistling, the crocodiles raise their heads on the water and then creep to the poolside to wait for the food. They usually get dead chickens, ducks, pigs and fish every second or third day.

Son also impresses visitors with his own method of helping crocodile eggs. He puts the eggs into a nest with a layer of straw on the bottom. The basket is placed under a 65-watt bulb burning all day and all night.

Sometimes Son turns the eggs to make sure that they warm up completely. Son says he carefully pays attention when the crocodiles hatch to help them, if necessary, emerge from the egg.

A few minutes after their births, the crocodiles are washed with water. Then they quickly learn how to creep by themselves.

Son says he plans for the farm to be the largest in the central region with tens of thousands of crocodiles that bring in much profit for Khatoco.

A one-month-old crocodile is now priced at VND 1 million, and crocodile meat costs VND 170,000 per kilogram. (16 / 06 -SGT)

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