Endangered estuarine crocodiles have found
newer sites like Gahirmatha and swampy patches near Satabhaya to nest this
year, much the joy of crocodile conservationists.
While a record number of 80 nesting sites
of estuarine crocodiles were spotted in Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary, the
sensitive female crocodiles also preferred Gahirmatha and Baunsagadi rivulet-side
wetland to nest. The reptiles had never laid built nest to lay eggs in these
spot. Itís positive development, reaffirming Bhitarkanika yet again as the most
congenial habitation corridors for the salt-water crocodiles, said Divisionnal
Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna
There has been marginal increase in the
sighting of nests. While it stood at 75 last year, the nest number has gone up
to 80 this time. The number of nest may still be more as enumerators could not
venture into inaccessible creeks and wetland sites. The female crocodiles who
loiter around the nest to protect it from predators often turn violent seeing
the intruders, he said.
Majority of the nesting sites were spotted
within the core area of the Bhitarkanika national park. The Kanika range
accounted for as many as 73 croc nests. The Ganjeikhia creek recorded the
highest number of 15 enumerated nests.
The female crocs find the narrow creeks,
higher altitude of the site free from high tides to their liking for nesting.
The Ganjeikhia creek had the perfect ambience for the nesting thus attracting
more female species to indulge in their instinctive natural habit, said the
Bhitarkanika is home to 1682 crocodiles
including albino species while the enumerators had counted 1671 species living
along the water bodies of the wildlife sanctuary.
Crocodile researchers are of the view that
the sighting of nest of these species at new spots like Gahirmatha and
Baunsagadi rivulet is an encouraging development.
The Baunsagadi rivulet near Satabhaya is a
croc-infested water-body. However nesting site had never been sighted earlier
in these patches. Similar is the case in Gahirmatha. The newer nesting sites
lends substance to the success of crocodile conservation programme in
Bhitarkanika that had begun on 1975 under UNDP funding, said researcher
The muddy and swampy creeks are
tailor-made for female crocs to nests. The mangrove forest cover owing linkage
to saltwater creeks is replete with swampy spots, which female crocs prefer to
lay eggs. The animals also select sites free from high tides to save the nest
from being washed away, he said.
Female crocodiles lay 25 to 35 eggs and
the hatchlings usually emerge from the nests after 70 to 80 days of incubation
Forest department officials said due care
was taken by wildlife staff so that crocodiles' eggs are not devoured by
predators like snakes, jackals and dogs, found in the reserve.
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 number of salt water crocodiles, the
species which are not found in any other river system in Odisha.
The wildlife sanctuary had been kept out
of bounds for tourists and visitors to ensure disturbance-free annual nesting
of crocs. The enforced restriction on entry to sanctuary was clamped on 31 May
and it would be lifted on July 31, said officials.
ďThe population increase of these species
has been at a snailís pace. Its growth is getting stabilized and is also
Nowhere in the country are these species
spotted in such abundance.
studying on salt water crocs are of the view that habitat of these species is
getting squeezed in about 26 square kilo metre of water bodies within the
national park. These reptiles prefer the ideal water bodies because of its
salinity contents. The salinity level in some of the water bodies might be
dropping proving less ideal for crocodiles. It should be intensely studied to
ascertain whether desalinized water has anything to do with re-productivity of
these sensitive species, according to wildlife researchers.