In the sprawling landscape of Australian agriculture, safety is paramount
EMERGING INDUSTRIES / Tuesday, 13 February 2024
Snap into Innovation: Australia’s Crocodile Industry Unveils RD&E Plan
Today marks a significant milestone for the Australian crocodile industry with the launch of the Australian Crocodile Industry RD&E Plan 2024-2029, marking a significant milestone for the developing industry.
Launched by AgriFutures Australia, the plan focuses on growing the Australian saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) industry ensuring it remains socially accepted and environmentally sustainable .
The recently finalised plan is designed to assist Australia’s 21 operators in capitalising on the industry’s recent growth and expansion across the country.
Although the most recent available statistics are over a decade old, indicating a value addition of $54.3 million to the NT’s economy alone in 2014-15, the current value is anticipated to be significantly higher due to the industry’s subsequent growth.
The Australian Crocodile Industry RD&E Plan 2024-2029 outlines five key themes that, when diligently addressed, will ensure continued sustainable and successful practices and improve efficiency and profitability.
The five key areas identified by industry are:
- Environmental sustainability and social licence – update the Code of Practice on the Humane Treatment of Wild and Farmed Australian Crocodiles, enhance traceability from farm to product, implement a life cycle analysis for the crocodile skin industry and investigate ways to reduce the industry’s carbon emissions, energy, and water use.
- Production efficiency – develop a dry pelletised feed alternative, better understand the relationship between conditions experienced during incubation and post-hatching performance measures, explore new crocodile farming techniques and enhance genetic selection in breeding enterprises.
- Skin quality – investigate ways to increase the proportion of first-grade skins, develop diagnostic tools to detect skin pathogens and explore ways to prevent skin pathogens and enhance skin grading standards.
- Value-added by-products – explore new high-value by-products (blood, collagen) for use in the beauty and/or medicinal industry and determine the legislative requirements for selling these by-products to ensure food and medicinal safety.
- Resilient and capable industry – develop a constitution and establish an Australian peak industry body, updating and expanding the economic value analysis to include the entire Australian industry and develop and run training courses for industry participants.
AgriFutures Australia Emerging Industries Senior Manager, Dr Olivia Reynolds, said the process of developing the plan proved the industry’s willingness to participate in meaningful collaboration.
“The Australian crocodile industry is growing, and with so much support from our specialist operators, the timing is perfect to optimise this growth trajectory,” Dr Reynolds said.
“We envision the plan’s priorities will enable the industry to maintain its resilience and capability in the coming years while delivering impact for this well-respected emerging industry.”
“As saltwater crocodiles are a protected species, the industry operates under the scrutiny of governments, international conventions, animal advocates and customers, ensuring the preservation of this important species, while contributing to the Australian economy.
Adoption of new and existing research, as laid out in the plan will be an important component of the industry’s success moving forward.
Managing Director at the Centre for Crocodile Research, Associate Professor Sally Isberg, emphasised the necessity of the industry’s gold standard of conservation.
“The industry is subject to very high scrutiny and sustainability regulations both in Australia and internationally, and rightly so. We need to maintain a steadfast commitment to ethical practices, otherwise we will cease to exist,” Professor Isberg said.
“Another crucial part of the plan is to help First Nations communities maintain the cultural integrity of a practice that has been happening for thousands of years, and that’s something we are incredibly proud of.
“Thanks to their expertise, we are able to collect the eggs, incubate and raise the hatchlings on country, in addition to providing employment, training opportunities and royalties – all going directly to indigenous communities.”
The IUCN-SSC Crocodile Specialist Group
The IUCN-SSC Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG) is a worldwide network of biologists, wildlife managers, government officials, independent researchers, non-government representatives, farmers, traders, tanners, fashion leaders, and private companies actively involved in the conservation of the world’s 25 living species of alligators, crocodiles, caimans and gharial in the wild.
As Dr Reynolds explains, the Australian industry’s ability to influence policies and decisions that impact, hinges on establishing strong relationships with governments and regulatory authorities.
“The CSG includes experts involved with crocodile domestically and internationally, all of whom are integral to the industry’s success, and we look forward to presenting the plan to them at the upcoming 27th Working Meeting of the IUCN SSC Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG) in April,” Dr Reynolds said.
Professor Isberg, who is also the Executive Officer of the CSG, expects the plan to have broad influence on the international industry landscape.
“The direction in the plan demonstrates that Australia has set itself up as an example of a world leader when it comes to implementing sensible and sustainable crocodile production practices.”
The 27th Working Meeting of the IUCN SSC Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG) – with AgriFutures Australia a key sponsor of the premier event for the international crocodile industry, is taking place in Darwin across four days from 15-19 April.
Despite the absence of a national peak body, the Crocodile Farmers Association of Northern Territory (CFANT) remains active and represents approximately 80% of the current industry. A recent survey revealed that 89% of the industry would support the formation of a national body.
For more on the crocodile industry and other new R&D projects that will address issues of national importance in Australian agriculture, subscribe to the AgriFutures Emerging Industries mailing list.
Dentsu Creative Public Relations
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