The crocodile industry is a unique industry in many respects. For example, it involves farming one of the world’s oldest, least understood and most dangerous predators. It requires collecting (or ‘ranching’) eggs from wild crocodile nests using helicopters to drop in people, or needing to walk through unforgiving and swampy lands. It also then requires careful handling and management to ensure the crocodile eggs and then juvenile crocodiles are hatched then nurtured to minimise stress and protect their skins. Finally, the premium end product, crocodile skins, then often ends up as some of the world’s most expensive and sought after fashion accessories (handbags, shoes, purses and wallets) being worn in the finest establishments throughout the world with key markets in the United States and Europe.
The Northern Territory makes an equally unique contribution to the industry, and the story, in that it:
- Is the largest producer in Australia, which is the dominant supplier of crocodile skins worldwide, and which benefits from having a native species, Crocodylus Porosus, that is highly sought after because of the quality of its skins
- Has a reputation for providing some of the highest value product for luxury leather market and seen significant inbound investment from the world’s most famous fashion labels (e.g. Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Yves Saint Laurant), to have greater control over their supply chain and thus be able to manage raw material product quality and the environmental and animal welfare conditions under which the raw material is produced
- Combines farming with sustainable management of crocodile populations, other farming activities and public safety
- Combines farming with a major tourist industry, which provides one of the key reasons most tourists visit the NT
- Plays a key role in advancing species research, sustainable management practices, enhancing product quality and animal welfare
- Provides a source of private sector employment for traditional land owners and regional communities.
The future growth of the NT industry will, given its higher cost structure compared to crocodile farming in less developed countries, depend on its capacity to provide higher value products via processes that reflect the demands of its customers.