Sunday, December 5, 2010

Expansion in Orissa's Saltwater Crocodile Census

Saltwater crocodile

The Bhitarkanika National Park in India's Orissa state is a 672 square kilometer terrain of mangrove swamps and wetlands bordering the Bay of Bengal. With several areas of impenetrable swamplands, it is an ideal crocodile habitat. Bhitarkanika happens to be one of the few well-known wild places on the Indian subcontinent that are home to the saltwater crocodile, the largest and most infamous of the world's crocodile species. The sanctuary has been witnessing numerous attacks from these gigantic reptiles, especially during the monsoon months. With the rise in such incidences, the park's authorities have recently planned to expand territorial limits of a crocodile census to be conducted in January next year. According to Divisional Forest Officer Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, the census is going to spread to fresh water bodies outside of the national park. He further added that the locations where the crocodiles were being spotted happened to be water bodies near human habitations. One possible crocodile habitation site was the upstream of Brahmani, Baitarani, and Kharasrota river system. Cases of man-crocodile conflicts had taken place in the villages of Chandabali block in Bhadrakh district, along with Aul, Rajkanika, Rajnagar, and Pattamundai blocks in Kendrapara district. This prompted authorities to help make the residents aware through a series of campaigns in vulnerable villages. They even set up awareness camps, in which they helped the local panchayati raj institutions regarding this ongoing catastrophe. It had been found that crocodiles were attacking people at bathing ghats near the water bodies. So, many people were advised to bathe in tube wells. In addition to that, bamboo fence barriers were put up at ghats to prevent any further intrusion from the reptiles.

I'm very happy to see that Bhitarkanika's forest officials had taken the initiative in helping both the crocodiles and the local villagers. One ingenious piece of work they did is construct bamboo barriers along the bathing ghats, in order to prevent any further attacks from the crocodiles. This similar technique is also used in some African countries, where villagers live alongside another dangerous crocodile: the Nile crocodile. In addition to that, the authorities even set up awareness camps as away to educate the locals about their reptilian neighbors and they must do in order to peacefully coexist with them. I sure hope that in the future, Bhitarkanika's villagers will live peacefully with crocodiles without getting into any kind of conflict.

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