It was 1997 when Muhammad Iwan, 41, saw some children playing with a newborn estuarine crocodile that fisherman had recently caught at Pangandaran Beach, in West Java.
He bought the reptile for just 25,000 Indonesian Rupiah ($1.8), named it Kojek, and welcomed it into his family home in Sempur Sub-District, West Java, as a pet.
Fast forward two decades, that tiny crocodile has grown into a massive 200kg gentle giant that Muhammad claims would never hurt him and his family. It’s this gentle side of Kojek that has made him a star in Indonesia, with people traveling to Sempur from all corners of the archipelago just to see him interact with his human family .
His already immense fame has recently reached new heights, thanks to social media. Amazing photographs showing Muhammad bathing the large 2.7m (8ft, 8in) apex predator in his front yard just meters away from his small children aged 2 and 10, went viral last week, sparking all kinds of reactions.
“When I saw a group of fishermen carrying Kojek, I bought him immediately for 25,000 rupiahs,” Muhammad told reporters. “When he was little, Kojek had a fierce nature and even bit my finger, but he soon grew tame when I took him into my home. Kojek looks like a beast, but he loves to interact with humans.”
“I love crocodiles, and I care a lot about Kojek, and I think he sees me as his father. He’s a good pet,” he added. “His treatment is not too special. I clean his water once a week and give him skin care and brush his teeth.”
When Kojak first joined Muhammad’s household, he was a mere 25 cm and lived comfortably in a medium sized aquarium. He now has his own little pond, right next to the Iwans’ home.
His diet initially consisted of carp, but as he grew so did his dietary demands, and now Muhammad spends roughly 50,000 Indonesian Rupiah ($3.7) a week feeding Kojak between 1.5kg and 5kg of goldfish daily.
Kojek’s newfound online fame has brought visitors from all over the world, including Australia, America, and even Europe, all hoping to meet and snap a few photos with the gentle crocodile. Muhammad claims that some tourists offered him up to 1 billion Indonesian Rupiah ($75,000) to buy Kojek for themselves, but he considers Kojak a member of his family and won’t part with him.
At just over 20-years-old, Kojek is still a young saltwater crocodile, so it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he got a lot bigger. Males of the species can reach over 6 meters in length, and weigh close to a tonne, so Mohammad might want to stock up on gold fish, because he’s probably going to need a lot more of them going forward.
Below is a video of the family home: