Where: Riviere des Anguiles, South Mauritius, Indian Ocean
Nature: Monkeys, stags, Aldebra tortoises, Nile crocodiles, Rodrigues Fruitbat, Giant Phesuma, and Round Island Skink
Nature facts: Controlled breeding of crocodiles and tortoises is done in an incubator room; turning up the temperature determines the amphibian’s sex
La Vanille Crocodile Park
La Vanille Crocodile Park, in the Riviere des Anguiles, was opened in 1985. It was previously a vanilla growing area, but now Nile crocodiles and other endangered creatures are bred here as part of a conservation program. The park is home to more than a thousand Nile crocodiles and they all have to be fed and looked after. Visitors can feed the sharp-toothed crocs on dead chickens.
Playing God – Breeding Nile Crocodiles and Aldebra Tortoises
Unlike mammals, crocodiles don’t have sexual chromosomes. Their sex is determined by athermolabile gene – a gene whose characteristics are determined by the external heat between the second and third week of its incubation. When the temperature is relatively low – around 30º C – the crocodile will be a female. When it reaches 34º C, it will be a male.
Inside the humid and dingy incubator room, the park’s zoologists can literally ‘play God’ by selecting the sex of the creature to be hatched from its egg by simply turning a temperature knob – down for females and a little bit up for males. The park also breeds Aldebra tortoises, whose sex gene reacts oppositely to crocodiles: if the temperature is up then it’s a female, down then it’s a male.
Meeting the Aldebra Tortoise
Although it’s only a mere two inches (five centimetres) long when it hatches, the Aldrebra grows into a Giant tortoise and La Vanille is the only place outside of the Galapagos Islands you can see one. From the first ten Giant tortoises that were brought over from Madagascar, there are now 130 Aldebra tortoises in La Vanille, however, up to 1,200 are bred through its conservation programme which are sent to zoos and forest preserves all over the world. Be sure to meet Domino: she’s the tenth biggest, known giant tortoise in the world. At 90 years old, she weighs 300 kilos and stands some two feet tall on her hind legs.
Other Species in the La Vanille
La Vanille’s lush, tropical alameda is also a refuge to other threatened animals like monkeys, stags, and the almost extinct Rodrigues Fruitbat. The park is also one of the only places you can see rare, indigenous species native to the Indian Ocean region like the Skink (a type of frog), the Round Island Skink (a smooth-skinned lizard), and the Giant Phesuma (a luminous, green lizard).
La Vanille Crocodile Park
Riviere des Anguilles
Telephone: 230 626 2503
Email: crocpark *at* intnet.mu
A Nile crocodile farm in a beautiful setting: a forest. The park is lovely and well-maintained with a restaurant serving crocs fritters and other croc delicacies (but also beef and chicken burgers).
By Susi O’Neill