Crocodiles Could Be Cash Cows in Cambodia

Also: Philippines to strengthen buildings, Malaysian gold mines not causing skin disease.

J.T. Quigley
Crocodiles Could Be Cash Cows in Cambodia
Credit: Twitter @Twitxannie

Some Tuesday ASEAN links:

The Cambodian government is asking crocodile farmers to hold on to their scaly reptiles until they are at least three years old. Why? Because three-year-old crocodile skins are worth a lot more money than the tiny babies that Cambodian farmers often export to Thailand and Vietnam. As the global market for luxury handbags and croc-skin accessories grows, so does the demand for finished skins – which can fetch $600 apiece. Last year, Cambodia exported 50,000 baby crocs for a mere $12 to $14 each.

“A pilot project by the Association of Cambodian Crocodile Farm Development that launched in the northwestern city of Siem Reap last year has helped, resulting in the export of some 20,000 skins to Thailand,” reported Quartz. “The Association [added that] Thailand would purchase up to five times more if more skins were available.”

Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Gucci are increasingly using exotic skins in their products – which currently account for 10 percent of each company’s handbag revenues. A Hermès crocodile Birkin bag can retail for up to $60,000 – compared to the $10,000 that a standard leather bag commands.

Over in the Philippines, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has initiated a program that will raise standards for the design and construction of public buildings. The initiative, dubbed the “structural resiliency program,” aims to strengthen public schools, hospitals, police stations, and other government-owned structures against natural disasters like Typhoon Haiyan.

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“Aside from providing continued public service in times of disasters, these public structures may also serve as temporary evacuation facilities for calamity victims,” said DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson, according to The Inquirer. “The series of natural disasters that hit the country recently call for making these infrastructures resilient to the ravages of natural calamities in the future.”

Though funding details are not yet public, the DPWH has already sent 20 engineering teams to the Eastern Visayas to estimate the costs of reinforcing or rebuilding public infrastructure that was damaged or destroyed in the typhoon.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, officials from the Health, Human Resources and Special Functions committee have rebuked claims that a gold mining operation in Raub is causing skin diseases among local residents. The committee chairman, Norol Azali Sulaiman, has called on the petitioners to stop making excessive claims when no proof of danger from gold-mining chemicals has been detected.

“Studies by various institutions such as Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and the Institute for Medical Research have shown no significant evidence that hydrogen cyanide is inflicting health problems on [nearby villagers],” Sulaiman told The Star. “I hope claims to the contrary will stop so we can focus on more pressing matters.”

Sulaiman added that hydrogen cyanide was used in other mines around the country without complaint. He also pointed out, however, that there are no clear international standards for exposure to the chemical compound.