Alligator Farming-Conserving a Natural Resources
When most people think of farming, they visualize
fields of waving grain, fruit-laden orchards,
or rows of vegetable crops. The image of
a "farm" teeming with toothy alligators
certainly doesn’t come to mind, according
to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford.
But alligator farming has not only
as a viable commercial enterprise,
a host of high-value products, it also
resulted in a conservation strategy
once-endangered natural resource, Crawford
During the first two-thirds of this
the American alligator endured unrestrained
wild harvest, primarily for the hides.
in the 1960s and early 1970s put a
rampant exploitation, and by the mid
populations began showing progressive
Estimates indicate that there are now
than 1 million wild alligators in Florida
The increase in the alligator population
also generated an increase in nuisance
complaints from the public. In 1975,
Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission
received more than 5,000 complaints
approximately $250,000 per year in
Nuisance calls are now assigned to
private trappers, who are allowed to
the proceeds from the sale of the alligator
for their services. Revenue from the
licenses goes toward conservation programs,
which ensure that ample numbers are
in the wild to sustain current population
With increasing alligator populations
recognition of the positive economic
that the sale of alligator skins, meat
other by-products could bring, methods
systematic harvesting were explored.
to researching the feasibility of any
program, certain criteria were established
to achieve the desired result. The
emphasis was to be placed on the conservation
of the species, its habitat and wetland
Secondly, the harvest of alligators
benefit the economy and people in the
Finally, conservation expenses were
covered by the industry.
Research on the feasibility of farming
as a means of harvest and conservation
during the 1980s. Data was collected
habits and life cycle of alligators
numerous individuals, associations
agencies, including the Florida Game
Fresh Water Fish Commission and Louisiana
Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.
was to combine the knowledge derived
past exploitation of the species and
new information to determine the best
to accomplish sustainable harvest objectives.
New data documented that the high reproduction
rate in the wild accounted for the
population growth. It was found that
productive female alligator deposits
than 30 eggs during nesting season.
of these hatchlings survived, the resulting
population explosion would be tremendous.
However, egg and hatchling mortality
due to natural events, such as flooding,
drought and predation by other wild
Nevertheless, research indicated that
percentage of alligator eggs still
Therefore, a portion of these eggs
be harvested without harming populations.
New rules based on these findings were
to allow harvesting of eggs from the
for alligator farming.
American alligator sustainable-use
require substantial financial investments
in personnel and equipment. But this
stabilizes the population growth of
in their natural habitat. It also provides
more than 90 percent of the eggs for
alligator farming. In return, the licenses
and fees that trappers, hunters and
pay to participate in the alligator
provide one of the sources of revenue
The farming of alligators begins with
development of controlled environments
mirror the best of their natural habitats.
Carefully monitored and regulated removal
of eggs from the wild is the next step
establishing an alligator farm capable
producing sufficient quantities to
It takes 12 to 18 months for alligators
reach harvest size of 4 to 5 feet.
all parts of the alligator are used
markets, the skins are considered the
valuable due to the durability and
of alligator leather, which can be
a variety of products, from fashion
to furniture upholstery. The skins
tanned and dyed into numerous colors
are usually determined by fashion trends.
Alligator leather products can be found
most of the finer retail department
and boutiques. The market for alligator
also has found a special niche due
unique character and nutritional value
being low in fat and cholesterol.
Consequently, the farming of alligators
helping sustain a once-threatened species,
while providing an abundance of unique
valuable products for domestic consumption
and foreign trade.