A moral marketplace

By Cindy J. Austin

Pulling up to the crocodile and fish farm in the middle of the Tonle Sap lake, I wasn’t sure what to expect. One underwater pen had hundreds of hungry catfish crawling over each other in hopes of lunch from the woman tossing in small white fish. Another pen, however, had crocodiles.

Over 25 crocodiles sat still and silent, soaking up the rays and hoping for lunch. This floating farm raised crocodiles for their leather. The hides of these beasts can be used to make anything from shoes to wallets and is considered high class.

Ten years ago a full grown crocodile would sell for $1,000. Today, however, they are barely worth $500. The reason is moral. Abroad companies and organizations are starting to look down on breeding crocodiles for their skins and are discouraging the process. These organizations have such a large influence on the crocodile leather market that the demand is beginning to drop. When the demand drops, so must the price. It used to cost $50 to buy a baby crocodile and now you can get one for under $15.

Out of the blue, a man splashed some water on one of the crocodiles to spark activity. It thrashed to the right in a fraction of a second, only to return to its resting position. I crouched down to look him in the eye and saw that it was deep yellow with only a slit of a pupil in the center. I stood up and left the creature to return to the boat, but I knew how he would eventually end up.

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