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Monday, 18 June 2012

Farming alligators as non-conventional livestock


By Anne Wanjiru
 
Crocodiles are traditionally considered wild animals. Today, some people have domesticated and kept them for food and other products. Crocodiles are bred mainly for commercial purposes. The products obtained from this reptile and exchanged for money include head, meat, skin, eggs, and live hatchlings. They have white meat. This means it is high in proteins and low in fats similar to poultry meat. The skin provides valuable leather used in making bags, shoes, belts among others. Hatchlings are sold to other breeding establishments.

Like any other livestock enterprise, crocodile farming entails routine management like feeding and breeding. In feeding management, the crocodile should be kept in conditions where they can look for their own food from the environment as well as supplementation. This involves stocking the farm with animals preyed by crocodiles as well as supplementing with water from the abattoirs.

Crocodile farming can be part time activity because it does not need much of the farmer’s time. This means it can be integrated with other livestock enterprises since less follow-up is needed. Moreover, it does not need much labour.
Picture of Nile Crocodile commonly bred in Kenya

The establishment of this non-conventional livestock may, however, need a relatively higher amount of capital. This includes getting a permit from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). The potential rancher submits a short feasibility study with a management plan of proposed ranching operation to the Management Authority (MA). Upon acceptance by the MA, the applicant submits a detailed project proposal detailing location of the proposed ranching operation, water supply, evidence of secure food supply to feed a stated and projected number of crocodiles and a detailed plan of the operation. The applicant  will have to show also proof of sufficient financial resources to cover at least four years of operation without expected income from the ranching operations, expertise on crocodile handling and husbandry.Furthermore,one needs to demonstrate an elaborate  farm business plan with projected expansion and production and a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report.

Crocodiles have a low rate of maturity. This is a challenge to the farmer since it cannot be taken as the only source of income. They take up to six years to be sexually mature. Therefore, alligator farming can be more of conservation than domestication. However, when they mature their products are very expensive and are usually exported.

 Hunting and dealership in wildlife products is outlawed in Kenya. The Wildlife Act, however, allows the minister in charge of wildlife to make regulations for the better management of wildlife farming. Crocodiles are gazetted as prohibited exports unless authorized by the minister in charge of wildlife. Exports of crocodiles and their products are therefore subject to approval by the minister responsible for wildlife. Crocodile farmers apply to the MA to export their products. The MA In turn advices its secretariat which links up the market and ensures that payment has been done.
    
Crocodile’s, brain is the most developed among the reptiles. In captivity, some species are known to recognize their keepers; therefore it is rare to find them attacking the owner or the servants. This form of ranching also does not impact negatively on the environment.

The main alligator farms in Kenya are: Nile Crocodiles, Kenya Crocodile (Mamba Village), Baobab Crocodile Farms, Mark East Brook Crocodile Farm, Larfarge Ecosystems and Galaxy Crocodile Ltd.

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