Sat, 20 Jul 2024


Crocodile meat, anyone?
Published on: Sunday, May 28, 2023
By: Jonathan Nicholas
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Alice (left) showing crocodile stew while Borneo Wild Treasure Restaurant co-owner Belen Acuna shows a package of fresh crocodile meat.
MOST Sabahans will not fancy a plate of stir fried crocodile meat. To some there is no reason why crocodiles, particularly the saltwater “buaya tembaga”, should not end up on restaurant menus.

But in China, Thailand, Australia and even in some states in America, they are eaten like any other meat.

The market for croc meat here is small with only two farms in the Kota Kinabalu area actively supplying, namely Borneo Crocodile Centre (BCC) in Putatan and the Tuaran Crocodile Farm (TCF). Both businesses were severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to BCC Director, Alice Cham, China was the top market for either fresh or dehydrated crocodile meat followed by Hong Kong.

Its skin is also highly sought after by Korean, Japanese and even Singaporean fashion houses.

“However it has been three years since the market slowed down. We have a few popular meat based products for our local consumers consisting of Chinese and natives at RM40 per kilogram.

Crocodile skin is also highly sought after by Korean, Japanese and even Singaporean fashion houses.

“Even some Muslims come to buy from us because of the purported health effects against asthma,” she said.

Amphibian and reptile meat are considered Haram for Muslims but Alice said many argued with her that it is ‘ok’ for health purposes when she was hesitant to sell.

“Most Sabahans are not into crocodile meat. It is not promoted as a household protein like fish, chicken, beef or pork.

“I believe the perception of Sabahans towards crocodile meat needs to change. Many say they won’t bathe in rivers after eating crocodile meat because the reptiles will hunt them down upon sensing the scent of their consumed relatives.

“Actually crocodile meat is very healthy. It’s white meat, low in cholesterol and high in protein containing omega-3. It’s a super food. It tastes just like lean chicken,” she said.

Alice says the feet and tail are the best part, especially for females because of its high collagen content.

The tail and feet, in a two-hour soy based stew tastes like Tau Yu Bak or braised pork belly stew. For first timers, she recommended lean meat stir fried with ginger and spring onion.

“Crocodiles aren’t recognised as livestock under the Department of Veterinary Services. Farms go unlisted maybe because it’s a small market. It’s sad when countries like China want to buy from us through the government but cannot do so.

“The Malaysian government should recognise crocodile meat as livestock because now we are seen as sourcing our meat from the wild.

“But we continue to trade under an international license with the WWF as scientists as well as adhere to local Wildlife protocols,” she said.

TCF Farm Manager, Engalbert Awing, when contacted said meat distribution to select grocers across Sabah is maintained.

He, like Alice, has the same customer base – those who believe the meat can rid of respiratory problems.

“We cannot say if the crocodile population has increased although it may seem so. We (humans) have invaded their natural habitat so they have to venture out to find food.

“It has come to a point where our food sources have coincided leading to an increase of human attacks,” he said.

On suspicion that sightings of crocs in drains and at Likas jogging park originate from farms like TCF, he said that was impossible, claiming none of their crocs had escaped their seven-acre farm, the largest in Sabah. 

It is completely sealed off and unsusceptible to floods with the reptiles being highly valuable to them. 

Earlier this month, a father and son were attacked by a saltwater crocodile while canoeing in Lahad Datu. 

The man suffered deep cuts while trying to save his son from the reptile’s jaws but his son’s body was never found. Rescuers called off search and rescue operations for the child, believed to be stateless, after three days.

Kinabatangan MP Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin last August recommended the government to create legislation on the culling and commercial harvesting of crocodiles, similar to what has been done in Sarawak.


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