N$100 Million for Zambezi Crocodile Farm

THE Namibian Development Corporation (NDC) is creating a N$100 million crocodile farm in the Zambezi region to capitalise on tourism and leather production.

The farm will be established west of Kongola near the Kwando and Linyanti Rivers along the Trans-Caprivi Corridor.

NDC senior manager for corporate services Wessel !Nanuseb told The Namibian that the farm will focus mainly on traditional and commercial tourism.

“We sincerely hold the principle that eco-tourism will go a long way towards addressing the commercial and empowerment goals of communities where such activities take place. It will address the socio-economic plight of the inhabitants of the region and the country at large, enhance value chains and attract foreign currency,” he further said.

Up to 1 000 Nile crocodiles will be kept there.

“We have just completed phase one, which was the provision of infrastructure. We are now busy with final arrangements for phase two, which should begin early 2015, and be completed in 2017,” he said.

!Nanuseb also said that a partnership between the NDC, private entities and the locals, or alternative cooperation modalities, will be considered to ensure the sustainability of the facility.

He credited the big role Namibia’s only existing crocodile farm, the Otjiwarongo Crocodile Ranch, played in their plans, assuring that the new project would not threaten the existence of the Otjiwarongo project.

“The Otijiwarongo farm owner and the NDC team have been working together from the inception of the project and we will continue working together to identify challenges and find solutions to better the Namibian leather sector,” said !Nanuseb.

The Otjiwarongo Crocodile Ranch trades in crocodile products and protects Namibia’s vulnerable Nile crocodile population. It also provides a safe venue for visitors to see, touch and even taste crocodile meat.

The farm was established nearly 30 years ago to produce crocodile hatchlings for South African farmers and to offer a different tourist attraction along the main route to and from Namibia’s northern regions.

The owner of Otjiwarongo Crocodile Farm, Dieter Noelle, confirmed NDC’s plans.

“We are conducting research regarding the farming of crocodiles on a continuous basis. Practical experience has also been acquired from the day-to-day running of the farm. Various consultants have visited our farm, while many other crocodile farms in South Africa have been visited. We are making concerted efforts to manage the farm on a scientific basis,” Noelle told The Namibian.

The operation has forged relationships with local tanneries to produce coloured leather, which can be used for the production of various articles like wallets, belts and purses among others.

The international market for the Nile crocodile skins consists of Asia and European countries like Italy and France.

Noelle explained that a breeding ‘herd’ produces eggs every year, which are incubated for about 90 days. It takes about three months from hatchling to juvenile stage, which is the ‘marketable size’.

“Through the supply of crocodile skins commercially, the extinction of the wild crocodile in Africa has been avoided,” said Noelle.

He said his project has been and still is an “enormous challenge”, although as the quality of the crocodile skins improves, better turnover levels are achieved. Water supply however remains a limiting factor regarding the growth of the operation.

“Crocodile farming is still an emerging industry with less experience in commercial intensive livestock principles than the more established industries such as pigs and poultry. The main product from the crocodile is the skin, while the meat, live animals and teeth are important by-products,” according to the 2004 study.

Source : The Namibian