Bhitarkanika Park saw rise in crocodiles to 1742
The number of crocodiles rose to 1742 from last year's census of 1698 in the Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha's Kendrapara district, a forest official said Monday. The census of estuarine or saltwater crocodiles was carried out along the water-bodies of Mahanadi deltaic region in and around the Bhitarkanika National Park between Thursday and Monday. The enumerators sighted 619 hatchlings, 347 yearlings, 273 juveniles, 178 sub-adults and 325 adults, according to the census report.
Of these reptiles, they found 12 white or albino crocs, four giant male crocodiles measuring more than 20 feet long, 43 large-size crocodiles that are 14 to 19 feet long, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya said. The giants included a 21 feet long croc which finds a pride of place in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest living crocodile, he said.
The latest census figure of these reptiles, which was released by forest department Monday, has come out with an encouraging trend of rising in the number of estuarine crocodiles. Four decades ago when the Government of India and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) thought of saving crocodiles, the population of salt-water crocodiles in Bhitarkanika area was estimated to be 95, including 34 adults. Now, the population has swollen to 1742. Since 1977, salt-water crocodile eggs have also been collected locally, and young crocodiles have been released in the creeks and the estuaries.
Acharya said estuarine crocodiles are also found in West Bengal's Sundarbans, having the country's largest mangrove cover. The mangrove wetlands in the Andaman Islands are also home to these species, but those cannot match the density and population of crocodile available in wild habitats of Bhitarkanika, he said. The region is crisscrossed by innumerable water inlets, creeks and nullahs all forming the part of Bhitarkanika river system. The enumerators extensively covered riverside villages where reports of man-croc conflict had reached a flashpoint in recent past.
(With inputs from agencies.)