Zimbabwe crocs go veggie for high fashion
By MacDonald Dzirutwe
KARIBA, Zimbabwe (Reuters) - Crocodiles are some of the most feared predators in Africa, ruthless reptiles renowned for tearing their prey to pieces before swallowing hunks of meat raw.
But in the baking sun at Nyanyana crocodile farm on the shores of Zimbabwe's Lake Kariba, feeding time has a surreal edge as the beasts nibble lazily at bowls of vegetarian pellets.
Besides being cheaper than meat, the diet of protein concentrate, minerals, vitamins, maize meal and water is said to enhance crocodile skin destined to become handbags or shoes on the catwalks of New York, Paris, London or Milan.
"We don't feed them meat anymore," said Oliver Kamundimu, financial director of farm owner Padenga Holdings.
"It actually improves the quality because we now measure all the nutrients that we are putting in there, which the crocodile may not get from meat only," he told Reuters in an interview.
Four hundred kilometers (250 miles) northwest of Harare, Nyanyana is home to 50,000 Nile crocodiles and is one of three Padenga farms around Kariba, Africa's largest man-made lake.
The company has 164,000 crocodiles in all and started feeding pellets in 2006 at the height of an economic crisis in Zimbabwe that made meat scarce and very expensive.
Initially, the pellets contained 50 percent meat but that has gradually been phased out to an entirely vegetarian diet. Continued...