Commercial viability of crocodile farming in Australia relies on being able to produce high-quality, first grade skins which are used to produce premium leather for products such as handbags, luggage and other fashion accessories. Australian accounts for 60% of the global trade in crocodile skins, with two thirds of that produced in the Northern Territory. The main export markets for skins are Singapore, France, Japan and Italy and the main export markets for meat are Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, United States and Canada.
Commercial production of crocodiles in Australia is limited to the tropical northern regions of the country which is the animal’s natural habitat. Wild capture and commercial production are both done under strict licencing. The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement governing the trade of endangered species. Under this agreement Australia’s saltwater crocodile cannot be traded except from government authorised captive breeding establishments or closed cycle farms.
There are two species of crocodile in Australia, the saltwater or estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) and the freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus Johnstonii). The saltwater crocodile is considered dangerous while the freshwater crocodile which is smaller and timid is not considered dangerous to humans. Freshwater crocodiles are considered more difficult to produce commercially for a viable economic return.
In Australia, many commercial crocodile farms are businesses engaged in skin production, conservation, tourism and education, and meat production. The skin of the Australian saltwater crocodile is considered one of the best leathers in the world and its main competitors are skins from other crocodile species from Africa, Asia and Papua New Guinea. An average of 1.33 million crocodilians were harvested annually worldwide for the three years to 2010, Australian production accounts for slightly more than 1% of this world total.
Facts and Figures
- There are 13 commercial crocodile farms in northern Australia
- Trade in crocodile and alligators is subject to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
- Permits are required to import or export crocodile products
- Crocodile farming is subject to state laws and regulations
- Food and feeding costs have a large impact on the commercial viability of crocodile farming
- Crocodile farming is a mix of wild harvesting and captive breeding (conducted under strict licencing)
- Being able to continue to make innovative improvements in production efficiency is essential to Australia being competitive
There were 13 commercial farms in Australia: seven in the Northern Territory; five in Queensland; and one in Western Australia. Some of these farms are production only farms while others are production and tourism farms.
In the Northern Territory and Western Australia, crocodile farming involves both captive breeding and regulated sustainable harvesting of eggs and live crocodiles from the wild. In Queensland crocodile farming is done through captive breeding only and wild harvesting is illegal.