Crocodiles’ Population Rises In Bhitarkanika

Kendrapara : Bhitarkanika national park in Odisha’s Kendrapara district has re-established itself as an ideal habitation corridor for estuarine crocodiles with their population maintaining its rising graph as per the findings of the latest headcount of these reptiles.

1742 including albino species were counted this year along the water-bodies of Mahanadi deltaic region while the census figure recorded last year stood at 1698, said Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya.

Twelve numbers of white crocs were sighted in the wild. 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.

The latest census figure of these animals, which was released by forest department today, has come out with an encouraging trend of rise in the number of estuarine crocodiles.

Four giant male crocodiles measuring more than 20 feet long were sighted by enumerators. This included a 21 foot long crocodile which finds a pride of place in the Guinness book of record as world’s largest living crocodile.

This apart, as many as 43 large-size crocodiles of 14 to 19 foot long were enumerated during the annual headcount operation.

The breakup of crocodiles sighted is Hatchlings- 619, Yearlings- 347, juveniles- 273, sub-adults- 178, adults- 325, said the census report.

The region is crisscrossed by innumerable water inlets, creeks and nullahs all forming the part of Bhitarkanika river system.

The enumerators extensively covered vulnerable riverside villages where reports of man-croc conflict had reached a flashpoint in recent past. However the sighting of these reptiles was few and far.

Four decades ago when the Government of India and UNDP thought of saving crocodiles, there were hardly three to four nests detected in the area while 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. We have been able to reverse declining crocodile population and make the area safest habitat for the reptile, said the official.