LANGKAWI: It’s really eyeball-to-eyeball action when a trainer handles a crocodile weighing almost a tonne, a courageous act given the unpredictability of a predator that is extremely difficult to read.
For Shamsuria Yahya, 50, a crocodile trainer at Crocodile Adventureland Lang-kawi, the ability to read the specific movements of the reptile’s eyes is crucial when performing a show or a demonstration to wow visitors at the crocodile park.
“The skills you need to have to become a crocodile trainer are courage, patience, being adept at reading a crocodile’s body language as well as a deep interest in the animal.
“Usually before starting the performance with the crocodiles, I would pray for my safety.
“During the performance, I always watch the movement of the crocodile’s eyes and would be wary if the eyeball starts moving,” he told Bernama recently.Shamsuria, more affectionately known as Abang Sham, said he is aware of the great risks he faces every time he performs with crocodiles, but remains enthusiastic about delivering the best and most thrilling acts to visitors because of his interest in the animal.
The Langkawi native said the show, which also involves explanations of the strength and anatomy of crocodiles, is much awaited by visitors who are curious to learn about the ferocious beast.
Relating his experience as a crocodile trainer, Shamsuria said it started about 15 years ago when he had to replace a trainer who quit working at the crocodile park.
“I learned from him how to train or tame crocodiles and became interested in the animal. I have now trained eight crocodiles here,” Shamsuria said, recalling a fractured leg bone after being bitten by a crocodile a few years ago.
He said the crocodiles used for a performance must be carefully chosen in terms of character, gender and level of aggression.
Meanwhile, Crocodile Adven-tureland Langkawi manager, Zulhasymi Norhalim said the crocodile park now has about 3,000 crocodiles of various species including Crocodylus Novaeguinea, Crocodylus Poro-sus and Tomistoma Schlegelii, with the largest weighing about a tonne.
“About 7,000 to 8,000 visitors come to this crocodile park every month, and it has various other attractions related to crocodiles.
“In addition, Crocodile Adventureland Langkawi is currently building another attraction called ‘Treetopia,’ which consists of two lookout towers built on two tree trunks,” he said.