Since the early 20th century, crocodiles have been bred in farms with the intention of obtaining skin, meat and other products. In Kenya, there are 21 crocodile farms set up for touristic and commercial purposes. Since crocodiles are not an endangered species, farming this reptile is allowed even by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) through licencing.
The Nile crocodile species, found in Kenya and dominant in Africa is preferred in European and Asian markets for its boneless underbelly and soft leather. In Africa, Zimbabwe is the second largest exporter of reptile skins trading over 100,000 skins a year. South Africa and Zambia are also thriving in the business as they export millions of dollars’ worth of skins annually.
The international market for crocodile skins is estimated to be worth more than $100 million. This is because crocodile skin is considered one of the world’s finest leathers and features in collections by some of the world’s most elite luxury brands in the fashion industry. The pattern of crocodile leather makes a product unique such that, no pattern is identical to another.
As a result, most people want to start this business for financial reasons. However, commercial crocodile farming is a complex industry that requires huge capital to start and maintain. Its profit margins are high especially when a farmer has a strong, well researched business model and the patience to wait at least 3-5 years before they harvest from their initial crocodile stock.
Daniel Haller, owner of Nile Crocodiles Limited is a successful crocodile farmer in Kenya who has more than 35,000 crocodiles in his farm. He slaughters approximately 4,500 crocodiles each year, selling the meat to local communities and tourist hotels. The skin is then processed to ‘Veblen’ skins which is exclusively supplied to LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton).
Crocodiles reach sexual maturity when they are about 10 years of age. A female crocodile can then lay at least 30-60 eggs at a time. A farmer can then decide to sell the eggs which are said to taste like chicken eggs, resell to other crocodile farmers or keep them for hatching which takes between 80 to 90 days to increase the farm numbers.
A crocodile is considered mature when it reaches 4-5 years. At this point, it can produce at least 1.2 meters of underbelly skin which can fetch up to $600 in the international market. The same crocodile can weigh approximately 300kgs. The farmer can set a standard farm gate price of Ksh 400 per kilogram of meat. This means a farmer can make Ksh 120,000 from one crocodile’s meat.
Restaurants that serve crocodile meat will charge at least Ksh 1,000 for a quarter kilogram. Those that prefer to prepare the raw meat at home can purchase a kilogram from these restaurants at Ksh 3,500-Ksh 4,500.
Still interested in crocodile farming? Look out for the details on how to start a crocodile farm.