Brendon visits Australia's oldest crocodile farm in Rockhampton.
Lilian and John Lever opened Queensland's first privately owned working crocodile farm in Queensland in 1981. The 113 hectare property became a tourist attraction in 1985, and with anything up to 3000 resident crocodiles at any one time, visitors certainly get a good look at these amazing pre-historic survivors.
The Levers breed and farm crocodiles for their flesh and skins. Five to eight weeks after mating, the female is ready to lay her eggs. She does this in a hole she has prepared by scratching with her back feet, and then covers it very well with grass, leaves and dirt. She then keeps guard for around 82 days, during which time her maternal hormones click in.
Hatchlings are protected and kept warm in insulated, environmentally controlled sheds. In the wild, the young can be hunted by pigs, hawks, owls, goannas and fish, so they do get to enjoy a few years before reaching the abattoirs.
Crocodile meat has become a popular delicacy and has a flavour somewhere between red meat and fish. It readily absorbs other flavours so is in big demand in Asian cooking where marinating is common. Meat is consumed domestically and exported to Japan, China and the United States.
Skins are tanned in Japan and France, returned to Australia where they are manufactured into things such as bags, belts and wallets. The belly skin is very soft and first grade and is very valuable.
Tours of the farm run twice daily. A talk about the crocs' habits and personalities is given, and you see them being fed, as well as having a visit to a nesting area.