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Britain's first crocodile farmer turns to conservation

Andy Johnson in his 'Tropical House' Credit: ITV Anglia

The man who became Britain's first crocodile farmer has turned to conservation and opened up his first reptile house.

Andy Johnson from Cambridge runs Johnsons of Oldhurst, a farm that's been in business since 1899. In 2006, Andy made headlines as the first person in the country to farm crocodiles.

15 crocodiles and alligators now live in the 'Tropical House', which was an old cattle shed.

"We were mainly poultry farmers at the time and we needed an incinerator for any falling stock. With the number of birds in shed, the temperature was right and we decided crocodiles were better than fossil fuel for incinerating any waste."

– Andy Johnson

Although the reptiles are primarily used as waste disposal, Andy is also passionate about conserving the endangered animals.

"Conservation is everything and these do tell a story. In Africa and Asia, [the reptiles] are readily farmed, but this has been very successful as a conservation project."

– Andy Johnson
Romeo the crocodile Credit: ITV Anglia

The project may have been fruitful, but it's not been without its dangers. Andy told ITV Anglia it should have been "lights out" after his head ended up between a crocodile's jaws. He thought two of the reptiles, Romeo and Cuddles, had got into a fight. When Andy tried to separate the pair, Romeo, who weighs 125kg, placed the farmer's head in his mouth. Luckily, Romeo decided not to shut his jaws.

Visitors at the Tropical House Credit: ITV Anglia

Along with the crocodiles, Andy keeps snakes, turtles and tropical fish. The animals aren't the most traditional of farm animals, but they're very popular with visitors. The Tropical House is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday and enables people to experience exotic animals without having to look through glass. Andy hopes these experiences will inspire the next generation of conservationists.