Kendrapara, August 8 (LocalWire): Around 3000 baby crocodiles were born in Bhitarkanika National Park recently.
‘This year we sighted several hatchlings in the 103 nests of salt-water crocodiles made with mangrove twigs, leaves and mud made on higher ground that isn’t inundated during high tide and where it gets direct sunlight,’ said Bimal Prasan Acharya, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of the park.
‘A single female normally lays a clutch of 40 to 60 eggs that incubate for 70 to 80 days and around forty to fifty percent hatchlings are born from each nest. Water-monitors, monitor lizards, fish cats, jackals, kites and other predators feast on the baby crocodiles after they emerge from the shells.
Therefore, very few hatchings survive till adulthood and is a high-risk stage for crocodiles.
Out of five hundred baby crocodiles only one crocodile will reach adulthood in the wild,’ said Dr Sudhakar Kar, noted crocodile expert and former wildlife research officer of forest and wildlife department of the state.
The forest officials had imposed a three-month ban on the entry of anyone in the Park during the nesting period as the mother crocodiles need tranquil environment during their mating period from 1 May to 31 July.
‘In 1975, the ministry of Forest and Environment in collaboration with UNDP had started a crocodile breeding and rearing project in Dangamala within Bhitarkanika.
Recognized as the biggest salt-water crocodile conservation success story in the country, relentless efforts were put in by the authorities in the increase of crocodile population in Bhitarkanika from just about 96 in 1974 to 1742 seven years back,’ said Dr Kar.
11 years ago, the Guinness Book of World Records recorded a 23-foot-long salt-water crocodile in Bhitarkanika as the largest crocodile in the world,’ he added.
The three species of crocodiles, salt water, mugger and gharial breeding and rearing programme was started in 1975 in 34 places in West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other states.
But the salt water crocodile conservation programme in Bhitarkanika is the most successful one, Dr Kar said.