Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures is one of the few wildlife parks in the world, and the only one in Australia, to be bordered by World Heritage forest. The park takes very seriously its obligations to do no harm to and, where possible, improve the values of the fragile and unique landscape and surrounds.
Obligations, site rehabilitation and ecological health
A fundamental Hartley’s business objective is that all landscaping be sympathetic to the natural values of the area and that all plantings comprise native plant species, specifically those found naturally within a 30km radius of the park.
This once heavily degraded and weed infested area has seen 7,000 plants installed since 2001. Ongoing weed control and targeted hazard reduction burning has resulted in a profusion of native wildlife. Our list of wild birds observed within the park boundary has increased threefold from the initial 2001 survey to 95 species - a number that is still rising.
Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures is located within the world heritage listed Wet Tropics - famous for their spectacular rainforests. Not all rainforests are the same. The "drier" rainforest found around here is very different to the rain soaked forest of the Daintree and Palmerston regions. Instead of a thick, leafy canopy with tall, emergent buttressed trees, this "7a notophyll vine forest" consists mainly of one layer of trees 10-16 metres in height, with woody vines and creepers.
Although the plant species themselves are common the mix of species is very unusual. It is estimated that only 356 ha of type 7a vine forest exists in Australia, making it one of the rarest rainforest types in the world. This rainforest once existed along Tin Creek but was largely destroyed by clearing, overgrazing and fire.
Over the last five years the Hartley’s team has protected and weeded the site and it is now ready for replanting. The goal is to re-vegetate Tin Creek with suitable trees and restore this rare plant community. Recognizing the significance of this project, the Wet Tropics Management Authority requested Hartley’s to place a covenant over the site to protect its future.
Group visitors can undertake an interpretive guided walk along Tin Creek, learn about its significance to local ecosystems, and assist in tree planting activities along its banks.
Another important environmental concern is water quality. Water coming from the lagoon and farm settlement ponds is regularly tested. Waste water from the farms feeds into three settlement ponds where all nutrients are removed through natural filtration before entering the lagoon. Pumps at the lagoon can distribute water elsewhere in the park for gardens and enclosure maintenance. Native plants reduce the need for intensive water and fertilizer use.
Conserving crocodiles presents special challenges. They are the largest predators in their habitats, with the potential to threaten humans and livestock. Many people dislike them because of their appearance and reputation.
Worldwide, crocodiles were hunted for their valuable skins and meat. In Australia, extensive hunting for skins during the 1950’s and 1960’s brought both the Estuarine and Freshwater Crocodile to near extinction. Federal and state laws now protect both Australian crocodile species.
During the 1960’s, over half the 23 crocodilian species faced extinction. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) developed conservation programs to ensure the preservation of all crocodilians. Along with 168 other nations, Australia is a signatory to CITES, the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna. Through CITES, the IUCN regulates the international trade in crocodiles and crocodile products and encourages the sustainable use of crocodiles for skin and meat production as a legitimate conservation tool. Crocodiles are a natural renewable resource with considerable potential for sustainable commercial use.
Sustainable commercial use of wildlife provides opportunities for resource management techniques that benefit conservation. The economic value of the wildlife may make other, more destructive land exploitation less profitable and therefore less appealing. Commercial use allows wildlife to be managed to meet many public needs, including conservation. The monetary value of farmed crocodiles reduces or eliminates hunting pressure on wild populations and promotes public understanding and acceptance of the role that crocodiles play as the supreme wetland predator.
Active management of wildlife reconnects people with the natural world. It also promotes a sympathetic and proactive approach to natural systems management, especially if there are also significant economic benefits for regional economies.