Padenga Holdings Limited' (Padenga) is a public company listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. It was the first listed company in Africa whose sole business is the production and sale of crocodilian skins and meat. The company, formerly a division of the Innscor Africa Limited Group, listed in November 2010.
Padenga has a long and rich heritage in Zimbabwe, with one of its three production farms being the first, and therefore oldest commercial crocodile farm ever established in the country. Kariba Crocodile Farm (KCF) was established in 1965 as a small, family-run farming operation. The establishment of this farm was a testament to the foresight and perseverance of the original owners as its development preceded any formal recognition of the value of sustainable utilization of wildlife species. From that inauspicious start, the Farms that constitute Padenga today have followed a long and sometimes challenging pathway to become the successful operation that exists today. Over that period the business has demonstrated its ability to adapt and flourish in the changing, and often trying circumstances resultant from organisational changes, political and economic difficulties, and more recently, the impact of the global financial crisis and the market recession that resulted from it.
Today, Padenga is one of the world’s leading suppliers of premium quality crocodilian skins, accounting for nearly 85% of the supply of Nile crocodile skins to high-end luxury brands globally. Padenga entered the alligator industry in the southern USA and is in partnership in an operation producing watchband size and medium size skins of premium quality for the top end luxury and fashion brands. Padenga also produces crocodile meat from its export approved abattoir for sale to European and Asian markets.
PHL Bussines strategy
Padenga defines its business strategy as being:
- To be the global market leader in premium quality crocodilian skin production
- To focus 100% on our core business
- To seek global expansion through diversification into production of other crocodilian species
- To maximise shareholder returns
- To practice sound corporate, social and environmental governance
- Economic – to maximise earnings and to minimise costs so as to sustain and grow the business whilst ensuring a positive and continual return to shareholders.
- Environmental – to practice environmental sustainability in all aspects of its business and in particular to fulfil our responsibilities in terms of conservation of the crocodilian resources in the countries in which we operate.
- Operational – to utilise skills and technology to develop an operation that is efficient and effective in satisfying the demand for premium quality crocodilian skins and to implement “best practice” protocols across the farming units.
- Social – maintain PHL’s position as one of the leading employers within the community, as well a one of the main health care providers to the local communities in areas in which the company operates to be a leading employer within the areas within which the company operates and to contribute through its social responsibility programs towards uplifting the lives of staff and neighbouring communities.
The Nile Crocodile
(Crocodylus niloticus) is the second largest of the world’s crocodilian species after the saltwater crocodile. It is widespread throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but occurs mostly in the central, eastern and southern parts of the continent and lives in a variety of aquatic environments such as lakes, rivers and marshlands. The range of the Nile crocodile once stretched from the southern tip of Africa and northward as far as the Mediterranean coast on the Nile delta. Although capable of living in saline environments, this species is rarely found in saltwater, but occasionally inhabits deltas and brackish lakes.
On average an adult Nile crocodile is between 4.1 and 5 meters long, and weighs around 410 kg. However, specimens measuring 6.1 meters in length and weighing 900 kg are not uncommon. The largest accurately measured male, found near Mwanza, Tanzania, measured 6.47 m and weighed approximately 1,090 kg.
The Nile crocodile is an opportunistic apex predator and a very aggressive species of crocodilian that is capable of taking on prey as large as itself. In the wild their diet consists mainly of fish, other reptiles, birds and mammals. The Nile crocodile is an ambush predator and can wait for several hours or days for the suitable moment to attack. Like other crocodilian species Nile crocodiles have an extremely powerful bite.
Nile crocodiles are a very social species, sharing basking spots and large food sources such as schools of fish and big carcasses. There is a strict hierarchy that is determined by size, with large males at the top of the hierarchy. Like most other reptiles, Nile crocodiles lay eggs to reproduce, which are guarded by the female. Eggs are laid in a hole in the ground, with the mother remaining in the proximity to uncover the eggs at the time of hatch and to carry the new hatchlings in her mouth to the nearest water. The hatchlings are further protected by the mother for a period of time, but hunt by themselves from the time that they hatch. The Nile crocodile is one of the most dangerous species of crocodile and is responsible for hundreds of human deaths every year
It is estimated that there are between 250,000 to 500,000 Nile crocodiles living in the wild. Although crocodile populations in the wild are relatively robust from a conservation standpoint, the species is listed on Appendix II of CITES, and as such utilisation of the species is closely monitored by the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe.
The American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is a large crocodilian species endemic to the southeastern United States. It is one of two living species in the genus Alligator. The American alligator inhabits freshwater wetlands, such as marshes and cypress swamps from Texas to North Carolina. It is distinguished from the American crocodile by its broader snout, with overlapping jaws and darker coloration, and is less tolerant of seawater.
The American alligator is a fairly large species of crocodilian, with males reaching an average maximum size of 4.6 meters in length, weighing up to 453 kg, while females grow to a maximum of 3 meters. The largest reported size was a male killed in 1890 on Marsh Island, Louisiana and reportedly measured 5.8 meters in length.
Alligators are also apex predators and consume fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Hatchlings feed mostly on invertebrates. Alligators also play important roles in wetland ecosystems through the creation of “alligator holes” which provide wetter or drier habitats for other organisms. Unlike Nile crocodiles, alligator eggs are laid above ground in a nest of vegetation, sticks, leaves, and mud in a sheltered spot in or near water. Very often the nest may be constructed on floating reed mats and be surrounded completely by water. Young are born with yellow bands around their bodies and are protected by their mother.
The American alligator is also listed on Appendix II of CITES. Historically, hunting has decimated their numbers and the species was once listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Significant conservation efforts were implemented that resulted in an increase in alligator numbers and the species was removed from the endangered list in 1987. This is regarded as one of the most successful species conservation programs ever implemented. The alligator is the official state reptile of the three southern states in which the majority of the population occurs – Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
The market for high value crocodile leather, known in the trade as “classic” skins, encompasses alligator, Nile and porosus (saltwater crocodile) skins. Other species in lesser demand (non-classics) include siamensis, novaguinea and caiman skins. Although these are also produced commercially they do not attract the same status and pricing of the true “classic” species.
Alligator skin production dominates world trade in terms of volume but mainly services the watchband skin market, with only limited numbers of large skins being produced that are suitable for handbags and leather apparel. The production of alligator skins is of the order of 350,000 skins annually. Nile skins constitute the second largest production by volume with around 200,000 skins being produced annually. Nile crocodile production is restricted to Central and Southern Africa, with Zimbabwe being the major producer, closely followed by South Africa and Zambia. Approximately 45% of all Nile crocodile skins are produced in Zimbabwe, and Padenga makes up around 50% of the country’s production.
Global demand for crocodilian skins is driven primarily by the demand for high value leather goods produced by top-tier fashion and luxury brands. Of the approximately 350,000 alligator skins produced annually, around 70% goes to the high end market, albeit most are for the manufacture of watchstraps. In Nile, the proportion of premium grade skins produced is significantly less, with only around 50,000 skins meeting the quality demands of the premium brands. Padenga has, since 2011, consistently supplied 40,000 plus skins annually into this market, and strives to remain the predominant supplier of this product worldwide.
Padenga’s focus on absolute quality over quantity has resulted in the production of larger skins at a consistently high-quality level that are optimal for the manufacture of expensive ladies handbags and small leather goods. Initiatives continue annually to further improve the standard of skins delivered and to cement the Company’s position as the only volume producer of premium quality Nile skin.
Crocodile meat is produced as a by-product to skin production. Meat is produced for both the local and international export markets. The Company’s abattoir is approved to export meat products into designated countries in both Europe and Asia, and is the only Zimbabwean operation that is currently active in this regard.
Approximately 5.5kgs of meat product is produced per carcass slaughtered. European export production exceeds 100 tonnes per annum, with the deboned tail and eye fillets being regarded as the most desirable cuts. The remainder of the carcass has traditionally been of great value to Asian customers and at its peak in 2004 a total of 322 tonnes of product was exported to this market. Demand in both markets has fallen off since the mid-nineties and the volumes exported are no longer at the same levels as previously. This is a function of changing customer tastes in Europe and competition from cheaper crocodile meat in Asia. Crocodilian meat is regarded as one of the healthiest and leanest choices of meat available to consumers, more so than domestic chicken. It is low in saturated fat and cholesterol but high in protein and is a popular choice for athletes, body-builders and weight-watchers. Crocodilian meat has a delicate flavor, and some describe the taste as a cross between chicken and crab. In Asia, crocodile meat has long been considered a delicacy, and there are supposed medicinal benefits associated with eating such a powerful and predatory animal. Consumption in Europe is mainly associated with high end speciality restaurants.
All Padenga’s meat products, irrespective of market, are subject to stringent quality control procedures throughout the production process. There is full traceability of product from the pen, through slaughter, processing and final packaging, and on to delivery of the finished product to the customer. Rigorous bacteriological and chemical residue testing protocols are followed to ensure that meat products meet the standards set by the Public Health and Veterinary Authorities of the various receiving countries.