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Crocodile farm expands as skins make Italian buck

WHAT A CROC: Koorana crocodile farm owner John Lever is in the process of a $500,000 expansion to accommodate 2300 crocodiles that will be trucked down from Darwin.
WHAT A CROC: Koorana crocodile farm owner John Lever is in the process of a $500,000 expansion to accommodate 2300 crocodiles that will be trucked down from Darwin. Rachael Conaghan

OVER 2000 crocodiles will make their way from the Northern Territory to Rockhampton's Koorana Crocodile Farm next month as John Lever makes a further investment into the crocodile production industry.

The local crocodile farm owner is currently in the process of making a $500,000 expansion as he gets set to home an extra 2300 crocodiles, on top of his current 4000, in the first week of October.

The expansion to the farm comes as John broadens his involvement in the Italian market with a huge demand for Australian crocodile skins.

John said the crocodiles being truck in from Darwin were 18 months old and about 80cm-1m in length.

"The crocs that are coming are from the eggs we collected last year from nests in the wild around Arnhem Land," he said.

"I've been back and fourth from Darwin to here to check the progress on the crocs before they make the road trip down. We're building like mad at the moment to ensure the build is ready in time and to make sure we have the capacity to home 6000 crocs in total.

"We'll accommodate the crocs here for about 18 months and in that time we'll fatten them up and get them to about 1.8m which is the skin size buyers want. We're dealing with a specific market here who are looking for size and quality."

The 2300 crocodiles will be trucked from Darwin in an insulated semi trailer that will be set at 18 degrees for the three day trip.

"The crocs will be comfortable in the refrigerated trailer being cold blooded animals, once the temperature is cold enough they'll just go straight to sleep so they won't be stressed out or anything" John said.

The crocodile skins have already been pre-sold to the Italian market with the average return on a first-grade skin being between $700 and $800 which is a prime piece of skin that has no imperfections such as scars or scale damage.

A second grade piece of skin sells for about $500

John said he knew most of his skins ended up in the first class brands such as Prada.

"We're the only crocodile farm who sell to the Italians with other farms selling to the French," he said.

"We sell to the Italian market to maintain a degree of international competition.

"There's two industries when it comes to crocodiles, the tourism industry and the production industry, we do both but we keep them very separate. When tourists come here they obviously don't see the 6000 crocs, the production crocs aren't seen by the tourists as it can impact their eating habits and other things so the tourism and production industries are very different."

Topics:  business crocodile


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