Image credit: © David Hancock
Saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) are highly abundant in Gurruwiling (the Arafura Swamp). Yolŋu people of the swamp have an intimate understanding and relationship with these culturally important animals and are ideally placed to use them to create a sustainable business. For many years landowners have harvested crocodile eggs to sell to farms in Darwin but the returns from egg collection can be significantly increased by hatching and growing the animals on-site.
Recognising the economic benefit for landowners, ASRAC sought funding from the Northern Territory and Australian Governments to establish a state-of-the-art facility in Ramingining in Arnhem Land to hatch and rear high quality animals. Crocodile farms in Darwin provided valuable advice during the construction phase and the ASRAC facility incorporates best practice technology, operational methods, and animal welfare standards. Crocodiles grown by ASRAC will be sold to larger farms once they are almost a metre in length. Profits from the enterprise will fund land management activities that protect crocodile habitat in Gurruwiling.
Building ASRAC’s Crocodile Hatchery and Grow Out Facility
Stage I of the facility, which was completed in July 2021, allows for collected eggs to be hatched and hatchlings grown on-site to nearly a metre in length before being transported to Darwin. The construction of Stage I was an important achievement for the people of Ramingining, who have long desired to increase their economic independence and boost local employment opportunities The hatchery and grow out facility will also allow the next generation of Yolŋu to learn and appreciate how traditional knowledge and skills are still relevant in a modern world.
Building works for Stage II are underway and the facility will operate at increased capacity from January 2024. Stage II will increase the output of the operation by over 300 per cent, providing more employment and on country opportunities for Yolŋu. Staging the construction of the crocodile hatchery has given staff valuable experience in running a remote and challenging enterprise, and increased workplace confidence and proficiency. After two years of on-site training, this has resulted in better animal care and ultimately a premium quality product.
Healthy Country Plan
We know that the land needs its people to care for it and to keep it healthy. In the same way we know that caring for the country keeps us healthy – physically, spiritually and mentally.