Commercial and Conservation
While a significant percentage of Riverbend Crocodile Farms revenue is generated from the export of crocodile products Riverbend recognizes the need for the conservation of wild crocodiles in South Africa. To this end the farm has for a number of years offered to the general public an option which has significantly contributed to the conservation of the wild crocodiles. Riverbend Crocodile Farm offers, at no cost four sub-adult females and a sub-adult male crocodile to any game reserve/farm or conservancy for bona-fida wild release . Many game sanctuaries such as Touch Stone, Sangolwane and Mabula have taken up this offer and viable breeding populations now exist on these properties. Naturally, the only proviso would be to obtain the necessary permits for both the translocation and accommodation of these crocodiles on such properties from the designated wildlife authorities
Commercial crocodile farming is a success story which is envied by the Rhino and Elephant fraternities as this well controlled and regulated industry has effectively acted as an insurance policy for wild crocodile populations since 1976. Regulated crocodile trade introduced in 1976 resulted in the illegal poaching and the trade of wild crocodile products evaporating overnight and has seen wild crocodile populations in South Africa increase four-fold in the last 35 years. Besides crocodile conservation the Kelly family are committed to the preservation of all of South Africa’s unique fauna and flora but have a special interest in the conservation of birds that also happen to be the closest living relative to the crocodile. Riverbend Crocodile Farm is a proud member of Birdlife South Africa and is a refuge for hundreds of wild birds that find comfort in roosting in the crocodile enclosures every night.
Commercial Crocodile Trade
Crocodile leather has for centuries been considered the finest of all leathers and the nile crocodile crocodylus niloticus is one of three crocodile species found in Africa and the only species found in Southern Africa. Crocodile leather is consumed by a niche manufacturing market servicing many of the top international fashion labels for the production of small leather apparel such as shoes, belts, handbags, purses and wallets.
Crocodile skins generate approximately 90% of the total income with the crocodile meat generating the balance. While the majority of wet salted crocodile skins are exported to Asia (Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore) some of the finest crocodile tanneries are found in France, Spain and Italy. Prime crocodile meat cuts namely tail fillets are exported to Europe while Hong Kong serves as a market of crocodile body meat. Slowly the local demand has been growing for crocodile meat supplied to some of the top local restaurants in South Africa.
Of the 23 crocodile species found world-wide the nile crocodile is one of the five “classic” crocodile species utilized for commercial purposes and is ranked third in terms of commercial value after the Salt water crocodile crocodylus porosous and the American alligator alligator mississippiensis. South Africa has now established itself as the dominant producer of quality nile crocodile skins and crocodile meat out of Africa.
As the second oldest farm in the country Riverbend Crocodile Farm has been able to acquire quality breeding stock from Zimbabwe and Namibia together with selected animals from the rest of South Africa. The collective noun for crocodiles is a “bask of crocodiles”( “bak krokodile” in Afrikaans) and Riverbend Crocodile Farm boasts one of the best nile crocodile breeding basks in South Africa . With a ratio of five females to every male and given the 5 star accommodation the facility offers the crocodiles at Riverbend produces thousands of quality hatchlings which are transferred to the commercial unit situated near Wartburg in the KwaZulu Natal midlands shortly after hatching.
The Wartburg facility accommodates crocodiles indoors for the first 12 months followed by a period of rearing outdoors until crocodiles have reached slaughter size which is normally 1.5 metres in length and at an age of 36 months. Crocodiles are reared under ideal conditions of temperature and humidity with this facility located near extensive chicken and beef farms which serve as a source of protein for the rearing crocodile’s diet. Crocodiles are slaughtered in a registered export crocodile abattoir in accordance with the requirements of the International Humane Society and the South African Bureau of Standards.
All the crocodile facilities operated by Riverbend are registered as per the requirements of both Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.