One of Thailand’s most popular tourist attractions are the crocodile wrestling shows that go on all over the country. They are a well-choreographed show that usually lasts around an hour, and consists of all kinds of startling crocodile related tricks involving a human wrestler. Tourists think they’re dangerous but, overall, bar for any rare accidents, they really aren’t. Both wrestlers and crocodiles have worked with each other for so long, both usually know exactly what to expect.
One of the most famous crocodile wrestling shows in Thailand is just outside Bangkok. Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo is a full zoo with thousands of animals, but it’s very popular for its crocodile wrestling show with some quite famous Thai crocodile wrestlers working there. They even have a couple of women wrestlers now. (See video).
Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo is also accredited by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as having one of the cleanest and well-maintained crocodile facililities in the world.
During a typical crocodile wrestling show, you’ll see the wrestler playing tug-of-war with the crocodile, biting its snout, sticking his arm in its mouth and, finally, putting his whole head in there. The crocodile. who has done this a thousand times before, goes along with it as it knows exactly what is coming next.
Sure, there can be an accident as, after all, these are wild animals the wrestlers are dealing with. But, the men are highly-trained and usually used to seeing the signs a crocodile isn’t happy, and so know when to back off.
Of course, westerners who talk about ‘animal rights’ often speak derogatory about the way the crocodiles are treated, thinking they know from a 60 minute tourist show what the true reality of the zoo is. They don’t.
In fact, many of the wrestlers love the crocodiles and treat them well and, at the zoo, they receive a much better diet than they would out in the wild.
Out in the wild too, at the mercy of Thailand’s enormous poaching community, in an ever diminishing population of Thai crocodiles, they may not fair so well. In fact, many of their brothers and sisters don’t, ending up as someone’s shoes, or as a dried head being sold as a tourist souvenir.
If these crocodiles knew they had a choice between being in a show for a couple of hours a day, then being allowed to lounge around in a big pool with their friends while fed chicken parts by tourists, or being hounded, shot and skinned by a poacher – really, it’s hard to see they’d even have to think about it.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to see one of Thailand’s best crocodile wrestling shows, check out the ones at Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo. They have them twice a day.