The number of crocodiles in the brooks and sloughs of Odisha’s Bhitarkanika National Park and its adjacent areas in Kendrapara district has grown swiftly to up to 1,742, according to the annual reptile census.
Forest guards, environmentalists and locals were engaged in the census, according to a report in Down to Earth. Last year, they had sighted 1,698 crocodiles.
“We use photographic interpretation during the crocodile census through digital cameras, with the observed date, time, and precise locations of the reptiles to determine the accurate number,” said Sudhakar Kar, a preeminent herpetologist and former crocodile research officer of the state forest and wildlife department, who led the 20 team members in the reptile census.
The team also trained around 80 locals at Dangama about the comprehensive strategy and method of counting the number of crocodiles, the Down to Earth reported.
The census enumerators, with the aid of GPS, detected the location of the reptiles and subsequently used the pictures of the reptiles to calculate their approximate age.
The increase in population was predominantly due to the far-sighted measures of the government. In 1975, the federal ministry of forest and environment, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, had started a crocodile breeding and rearing project in Dangamala within the Bhitarkanika Park.
Thanks to the success of the project, the crocodile population started increasing in the creeks, river and other water bodies of the park and its neighboring areas.
Nine years back, the Guinness Book of World Records recorded a 23-foot-long saltwater crocodile in Bhitarkanika as the largest crocodile in the world.
Back in 1975, major breeding programmes were taken up by some states like West Bengal, Madhya Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and a few other states in India, as well as in Nepal, to carefully save three important crocodile species – Saltwater, Mugger and Gharial.
But the saltwater crocodile conservation program in Bhitarkanika has been quintessentially the most successful one in the past 45 years, which is how long ago the historic program was adapted .
Since then, it has hedged, sheltered and mollycoddled as many as 96 crocodiles.