New crocodile nesting sites spotted in Bhitarkanika

KENDRAPARA (ODISHA)
28 Jun 2017

Endangered estuarine crocodiles have found newer sites like Gahirmatha and swampy patches near Satabhaya in Odisha to nest this year, much to the joy of crocodile conservationists.
While a record number of 80 nesting sites of estuarine crocodiles were spotted in Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary, sensitive female crocodiles also preferred Gahirmatha and Baunsagadi rivulet-side wetland to nest.
"The reptiles had never built nest to lay eggs in these spots. It s positive development, reaffirming Bhitarkanika as most congenial habitation corridor for salt water crocodiles," said Divisionnal Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya. There was marginal increase in the sighting of nests.
From 75 last year, the nest number has gone up to 80 this time. The number of nests may still be more as enumerators failed to venture into inaccessible creeks and wetland sites.
Female crocodiles who move 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 73 croc nests, while Ganjeikhia creek recorded 15 enumerated nests, the DFO said.
The female crocs find the narrow creeks, higher altitude of the site free from high tides to their liking for nesting. The Ganjeikhia creek has the perfect ambience for the nesting thus attracting more female species to indulge in their instinctive natural habit, said the official.
Bhitarkanika is home to 1682 crocodiles including albino species. 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.
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.
Newer nesting sites show the success of crocodile conservation programme in Bhitarkanika that had begun in 1975 under UNDP funding, said researcher Sudhakar Kar.
The muddy and swampy creeks are tailor-made for crocs to nests. The mangrove forest cover owing linkage to saltwater creeks is replete with swampy spots in 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 period. 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.
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 enforced restriction on entry to sanctuary was clamped on May 31 and it would be lifted on July 31, said officials.
The population increase of these species has been at a snail s pace. Its growth is getting stabilized and is also getting stagnated. Nowhere in the country these species are spotted in such abundance, they said. (PTI)