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Unable to turn their bodies or leave the water, hundreds of crocodiles on a farm in northern KwaZulu-Natal are waiting for slaughter in cruel conditions, according to the SPCA, which brought criminal charges against a Pongola farming operation yesterday.
SPCA national council inspector Nazareth Appalsamy said charges of animal cruelty had been laid against Coen Labuschagne, who runs Metcroc Boerdery, as he had contravened both the SA National Standard of Crocodiles in Captivity Act and the National Animal Protection Act.
Appalsamy said at least 200 crocodiles were incarcerated in concrete pits each no more than 1.8m wide, less than 2m long, without protection from the sun, and in water less than 300mm deep.
“Some of the crocodiles themselves are more than 2m in length and so their tails are bent in the enclosure, or their heads have to be permanently at an angle. They basically cannot lie or rest straight.
“There is no shade cloth or shelter or any heating requirements, which would be necessary depending on the season.”
He said the SPCA’s action was supported by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife which also visited the farm to inspect the conditions in which the animals were being kept.
Appalsamy said they had received a permit application from Labuschagne about three months ago. “We opposed the permit. We went to the farm when we received a complaint from another crocodile farmer who said Labuschagne had gone ahead and built these pens. What we saw there was shocking, cruel.”
He said the crocodiles were being kept in the cages to prevent them from blemishing their skins which are used for “glamour” handbags, shoes and belts.
According to Sapa, Labuschagne was in Mozambique and denied any knowledge of the criminal charges or that the conditions in which the animals were being kept were considered cruel.
He also denied the measurements of the pens. “That’s a lie. It is wrong what they are saying. I don’t know where they got those measurements from.”