In the land of crocodiles

By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo May 01,2017 - 11:41 PM

Children and their parents visit Crocolandia on weekends to bond with nature and the facility’s caged animals.

Children and their parents visit Crocolandia on weekends to bond with nature and the facility’s caged animals.

This is not the place for Captain Hook, what with his fear of crocodiles.

But Crocolandia Nature Park, the closest animal haven city dwellers can visit after the closure of the Cebu City Zoo, is certainly a destination for adults and children alike.

Opened in 2001 by the family of scientist and philanthropist Go Ching Hai, Crocolandia started with the vision of conserving and preserving nature and wildlife in a space that takes genuine good care of animals.

“I grew up in a home where my father had some sort of a mini-zoo. We had a saltwater crocodile named Magellan raised in our backyard,” said Janette Nellie Chiu, founding president of Crocolandia Foundation Inc. that runs the nature park.

Upon discovering that Magellan was female, the family immediately gave her a mate whom they named “Lapu-Lapu.”

Since then, Magellan and Lapu-Lapu produced more than 30 offsprings, all born and raised in Crocolandia.


The spot where Crocolandia Nature Park now sits used to be a turtle farm.

The park only spans one hectare, so when Chiu asked an architect to design the area as a nature park, Chiu recalled how the architect laughed and could not believe her.

A caged tortoise feeds on a plate of vegetables.

A caged tortoise feeds on a plate of vegetables.

“We wanted the space to be manageable. We wanted it to be a school with no walls — a place where children, families can visit and learn. We started with reptiles so we named the park Crocolandia,” she said.

With a foundation in place to run the nature park, they opened their doors to the public in 2001 to share their vision and mission and to educate people about wildlife and nature.

“When I interviewed the staff here, my first question has always been: ‘Do you love animals?’ It is important for people who work here to love the animals because this is a safe haven for them, where they are well taken care of and not just left to die,” said Chiu.

All the crocodiles in Crocolandia have their own enclosure adequately labeled with their scientific name, common name and information on the animals.

This offers visitors a walk-around learning experience, said biologist Lyle Cortes.

WATCH: Crocodile lessons with Lyle Cortes

While the park was named Crocolandia because of its first inhabitants, Cortes said there are 68 animal species in the park with 31 ponds and 53 enclosures.

The park is home to endemic species such as the Visayan warty pig, Philippine hawk owl, Philippine eagle owl, the rufous hornbill, the Philippine sail-fin lizards, the Philippine brown deer and, of course, the Philippine freshwater crocodile.

The park’s main visitors are students and teachers.


Reah Bacordo, who has worked for the park in the last 15 years, said they work with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to promote their goal of wildlife protection and conservation.

Bacordo said peak season falls between August to October and February to March. Families frequent the park on weekends. The park has an entrance fee of P100 for adults and P50 for children.

Lapu-Lapu prepares to be fed.

Lapu-Lapu prepares to be fed.

Lapu-Lapu is considered the second-largest crocodile in the Philippines measuring 16.8 feet long and weighing more than a ton.

But zookeepers and the park staff — all nine of them — consider Lapu-Lapu as the country’s most handsome crocodile. Unfortunately, his better half, Magellan, died in 2003.

The park now has a dining place called Crocodine Dining Grill and Souvenir Shop where Cebu Daily News met the Scheuer siblings Valkryis, Saavik and Thorgrimm spending time to enjoy refreshments after going around the park to visit their animal friends.

WATCH: Snake lessons with Crocolandia’s Zookeepers

“My favorite part is to watch the peacock and the deer. They just walk so gracefully. They are so calm and beautiful,” said Valkyris, 10.

Saavik, 9, said they enjoy watching the weekend feeding of Lapu-Lapu as they see the crocodile come out of the pond to eat chicken.
Park assistant Jade Calo co-led the reptile expo where visitors could touch the animals.

Last Sunday, they presented the albino Burmese python, green iguana, red-eared turtle and the alligator snapping turtle.

“We always aim to relay to our visitors interesting facts about the animals they see because many of these animals are endangered,” said Calo.

Most of the animals were injured and orphaned and were brought by friends or organizations to the park knowing that they would receive proper care and attention.

Crocolandia is located in Barangay Biasong, Talisay City, southern Cebu, which is less than an hour’s travel from Cebu City.


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TAGS: adults, Cebu, destination, land, Nature, zoo

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