New farmers look to crocs

Indigenous farmers here are making their mark in the crocodile farming industry, a sector that was once dominated by white commercial farmers.

Owen Ndlovu’s successful crocodile farm on the banks of the Zambezi River.
Owen Ndlovu’s successful crocodile farm on the banks of the Zambezi River.

Crocodile farming is one of the country’s highest animal export earners, alongside ostrich rearing. One of the black farmers running a successful crocodile rearing project at his farm in Binga is Owen Ndlovu. The farm, which is located on the shore of the Zambezi River, produces about 70 tonnes of meat and skins annually which are exported to Asian markets, particularly China.

“I started crocodile farming in 2009 after successfully applying for a permit from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. I started with a small number of crocodiles, but now I have got more than 10 000,” said Ndlovu.

This season, which ended in September, the company recorded 2000 hatchlings. “We have also 200 breeders which we bought from a leading commercial farmer in Kariba. The farmer is also assisting us in running the project,” he said. His company also sources eggs from the local people who find them on the shore of the river.

“We are buying a lot of eggs from the local people. Next year we aim to be self-sufficient in terms of eggs because we are hoping to secure more breeders” he said.

Ndlovu complained about the high cost of crocodile feed which his company sources from South Africa. “We are buying our crocodile feed in South Africa at a very high rate. Meat for the breeders has also gone up. We need five beasts every month to feed the crocodiles,” he said.

Crocodile products are in high demand in Asia and Europe where they are used for a variety of purposes such as leisurewear and medicine. Crocodile is also a very popular delicacy in restaurants.

It is estimated that the country earns more than $100 million a year through the export of meat and skins to countries such as Japan, Singapore, the United States and Australia. The country’s varied terrain and hospitable climate provide an ideal habitat for crocodiles.

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