In 1934, Hartley’s became the first place in Australia to hold crocodiles in captivity for public display and was one of the first to successfully breed Saltwater Crocodiles. Documentaries produced at Hartley’s created sufficient public pressure to persuade the Queensland Government to declare crocodiles a protected species in 1974 and prohibit hunting of wild crocodiles. We have been educating and encouraging crocodile conservation for 87+ years.
Conserving crocodiles presents special challenges, as they are the largest predators in their habitats, with the potential to threaten humans and livestock. Worldwide, crocodiles were extensively hunted during the first half of last Century, for their valuable skins and meat.
During the 1960’s, over half the 26 crocodilian species faced extinction. The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) developed conservation programs and international laws to ensure the preservation of all crocodilians.
Along with over 100 other nations, Australia is a signatory to CITES, the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna. Through CITES, the IUCN regulates the international trade in crocodiles and crocodile products. Federal and State laws protect both Australian crocodilian species.
The IUCN encourages the sustainable use of crocodiles for skin and meat production as a legitimate conservation tool. Crocodiles are a natural renewable resource with considerable potential for sustainable commercial use.
The Northern Territory and Western Australia operate under approved ranching plans. In Queensland, crocodiles are only farmed through captive breeding or the importing of hatchlings from eggs harvested under approved management plans in the Northern Territory or Western Australia. Captive breeding involves the keeping of adult stock on the farm for the production of offspring, which are raised for commercial production, the same as with chickens and cattle.
Public education is an important component of crocodile conservation. By teaching people how to live safely with crocodiles, tragedy can in many cases be averted.
Government controlled monitoring programs in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, ensure the wild populations are not over harvested. Despite the removal of thousands of eggs every year the crocodile population in northern Australia is in excess of 200,000 and increasing.
How does a crocodile farm work?
Operating since 1990
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.
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 six 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 approximately 90cm. Strict hygiene and good quality foods are essential for health, growth and superior quality skins.
The growers reach market size of 1.5 to 1.8 metres at 2-3 years of age. They are humanely killed, in accordance with strict regulations, 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 leather goods.