We took a trip into the Cotswolds the other day to a place I’ve been wanting to visit ever since watching a program about the crazy guy who started to collect crocodiles in his garden. This chap Shaun Foggett had crocs of various different species living in sheds down his garden path. The program followed Shaun and a few mates he managed to persuade help him move these to a new premises which was the birth of ‘Crocodiles of the World’.
A few years down the line this place is a whole lot more than a rickety wooden shed with a plastic pool down at the bottom of the garden! This is the only dedicated crocodile zoo in the UK and from the first instant it’s awesome. These crocks are incredible things and as you pass the Chinese Caymen floating motionless in a pool at the entrance you realise this is going to be something special.
The whole place isn’t huge, which is useful with kids. As we walked form enclosure to enclosure and stared open mouthed at the prehistoric eyes glaring right back at us it’s hard not to be amazed. You really do get up close to these cold blooded beasts and probably for the first time ever I came away with an appreciation and genuine fascination for these things we think we know so well. Running around with a 5 year old and a crazy little nearly two year old who would think nothing of climbing over a fence into the gaping jaws of a 10 foot alligator didn’t make for a relaxing visit. I definitely didn’t absorb as much of the information as I (animal geek) would want, but still it was excellent.
The staff hold talks and displays at various times of the day, very informal in the corner of the centre. Basically it’s a bloke holding a crocodile or alligator and telling us about it. The kids then get an opportunity to touch the beautiful thing under the sole rule to avoid the mouth. Of course Daisy our toddler terror was the only person to go straight for it’s teeth, typical. Heading over to another building we were off to watch the feeding of thirty five Nile crocodiles. These beauties live in a large, murky swimming pool. Each one was about 3 foot long, mere babies, but expect to grow significantly larger over the coming years. The keeper holds a morsel of chicken in a metal grasp on the end of a very long stick and hovers it a couple of feet over the surface of the pool. One at a time the crocs surge up out of the water and snap the chicken down in one. It’s exciting to watch and really interesting hearing the guy talk about the how, why and what of feeding and crocodile husbandry in general. I could have stood there watching and asking questions all day, alas Daisy was trying to grab an alligator again.
The centre is dedicated to breeding endangered species with the hope of releasing some of the most critically endangered back into the wild in the future. (I’ve always thought those small cotswold rivers have been lacking in something). It’s a serious venture, with a team who are super friendly, knowledgable and passionate about these animals and who want to educate us all and change our perception of crocodilians*.
In a couple of hours we were done. It’s a brilliant place and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the natural world and a hankering for the prehistoric.
Website: Crocodiles Of The World
*Crocodilians - a large predatory semiaquatic reptile of an order that comprises the crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gharial. Crocodilians are distinguished by long jaws, short legs, and a powerful tail.