Apr.16 - Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food.
It's been a tough decade for Pedangu Holdings. Keeping Nyanyana crocodile farm in Zimbabwe, and two others like it, in business has involved many sacrifices - even the crocodiles have had to put up with change. (SOUNDBITE) (English) OLIVER KAMUNDIMU, FINANCIAL DIRECTOR, PADENGA HOLDINGS, SAYING: "We don't feed them with meat anymore the major reason was that we couldn't find enough meat to feed them." Zimbabwe's economic collapse and hyperinflation were the first problems - then came the global financial crisis. (SOUNDBITE) (English) OLIVER KAMUNDIMU, FINANCIAL DIRECTOR, PADENGA HOLDINGS, SAYING: "We investigated what exactly do they need from that meat they are getting mainly their protein from the meat and vitamins and minerals so we went and found the minerals and vitamins and proteins from other sources and we convert that into a pellet using mainly fish meal meat and bone meal, other protein sources.." The crocodiles are fed every other day and with 50,000 of them at each Pedangu farm the switch to pellets saved a fortune. It's also thought to have improved their skins, which in Europe sell for around $550 each. (SOUNDBITE) (English) OLIVER KAMUNDIMU, FINANCIAL DIRECTOR, PADENGA HOLDINGS, SAYING: "We sell the crocodile skins mainly into Europe now, our customers are our tanneries and the major tanneries that we are selling to at the moment are in France but our tanned skins are sold into the rest of Europe and we used to sell to Singapore as well and those skins will end up anywhere in Asia where there is a growing market for the handbags." Ironically, as the crocs went vegetarian demand for their meat cooled. But super wealthy shoppers after luxury handbags and shoes kept the skins market very much alive. Last year Pedangu sold 42,000 skins - all of them from crocodiles who've never eaten meat.