Bhubaneswar: Baby crocodiles have broken out of their eggshells to make their way to water-bodies in and around the Bhitarkanika national park, marking the culmination of annual breeding and nesting season of these endangered reptiles.
This year a record number of 101 nesting sites of estuarine crocodiles were spotted in the national park. The increase in number of nests brings home the point the better of conservation measures by the state forest department, said Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Prasanna Kumar Acharya.
The sight of baby crocs breaking out of eggshells and their act of loitering aimlessly before hopping into the water-bodies and creeks was a visual treat to watch. The emergence of hatchlings has commenced since past two days and would continue for a fortnight, the official said.
The ground-level staff engaged in maintaining watch and vigil of the nests were privileged to watch the rare natural phenomenon. The fledgling crocs emerged from the shells sans mothers. However the forest personnel maintained safe distance from the nests as human interference turns the reptiles violent and aggressive.
Female crocodiles lay 50 to 60 eggs and the hatchlings usually emerge from the nests after 70 to 80 days of incubation period. However hardly one out of every hundred baby crocs grows to become adults as their mortality rate is very high. In the wild, babies are devoured by predating aquatic animals.
Adequate conservation measures by the state forest department have led to a systematic rise in the number of these reptiles over the years, claimed officials.
The wildlife sanctuary had been kept out of bounds for tourists and visitors to ensure disturbance-free annual nesting of crocs. The animals turn violent and restive over human interference in their habitat. The enforced restriction on entry to sanctuary was clamped on 31 May and was later lifted on July 31, said officials.
1698 crocodiles species were counted this year along the water-bodies of Mahanadi deltaic region while the census figure recorded last year stood at 1682.
Estuarine crocodiles are also found in West Bengal’s Sundarbans, having country’s largest mangrove cover. Besides the mangrove wetlands in Andaman Islands are home to these species, but those cannot match density and population of crocodile available in wild habitats of Bhitarkanika.