HOW DOES A CROCODILE FARM WORK?
Hartley’s has operated as a commercial crocodile farm since 1990 producing skins and meat for the export market. The skin from the Saltwater Crocodile is highly sought after by fashion designers due to its comparatively small scale and lack of osteoderms (small bones within the skin). Adult crocodiles are kept in pairs or colonies for breeding. Female crocodiles reach sexual maturity at lengths of 2.2 to 2.5m, while males mature later at approximately 3.0 to 3.5m.
Approximately six weeks before nesting, the female will signal the male by using body language. Mating takes place in the water. Between the months of November and March, the female crocodile builds a nest of soil and vegetation about one-metre high, using her feet. Mounding the nest helps to keep the clutch of about 50 eggs safe from flooding during the wet season and assists in maintaining the correct temperature for incubation.
Each morning during the nesting season, the breeding enclosures are checked for nests. The eggs are removed from the nest and placed in an incubator. Removing the eggs from the nest gives the embryos the best chance of survival. Natural nests are susceptible to flooding, overheating and predation. The sex of a crocodile is determined by incubation temperature. Males are produced with an incubation temperature around 32 degrees Celsius, while females are produced above and below that temperature. For farming purposes, the majority of eggs are incubated to produce the faster-growing males.
The eggs take around 86 days to hatch. The hatchlings are housed in a specially designed building called a Hatchery where the environment is carefully controlled. The air and water temperatures are maintained at a constant 32-degree Celsius. The hatchlings are fed a special mince five times a week made from red meat and chicken, with a mineral/vitamin supplement.
The hatchlings are relocated to an outdoor Grow Out Building once they reach a length of 90cm at approximately 9-12 months of age. Strict hygiene and good quality foods are essential for health, fast growth and superior quality skins.
The growers reach a market size of 1.5 to 1.8 metres at approximately 2 ½ years of age. They are humanely euthanised and transported to a registered processing plant. The average carcass produces 4kg of saleable meat, which is popular with local restaurants. The skins used for our leather goods are cleaned, salted and graded before export to Japan for tanning and production into premium quality crocodile leather goods.