Kendrapara, Dec 30 (LocalWire): Tour operators and tourists criticized the forest department for closing the Bhitarkanika National Park for nine days from 26 December to 4 January for crocodile census during the peak tourist season.
‘We incurred huge losses as forest officials closed the park during Christmas and New Year holidays when tourists flock to the Park,’ said Bikasah Mishra, a tour operator from Kendrapara.
Other than forest guest houses, there are several hotels, makeshift tourist camps, boat owners grudged the decision of the forest department.
‘Many tourists prefer to travel to tourist destinations during New Year but this year they are barred from entering Bhitarkanika,’ said Ramakanta Das a boat owner of Gupti village.
‘We were forced to cancel several tours after the forest officials announced the directive,’ said Tapan Das, a tour operator from Bhitarkanika.
‘A nine-day-long ban on the entry of tourists into Bhitarkanika has been imposed due to the annual census of salt water crocodiles. Each year we count the reptiles during the black fortnight in winter when it is conducive to count the reptiles. This year the black fortnight or Krushna Pakshya is from 26 December according to the lunar calendar,’ said Dr Sudhakar Kar, a noted crocodile researcher and the former forest officer of Odisha forest department.
Bhitarkanika, a biodiversity hot-spot mesmerizes with its picturesque beauty and serenity, particularly at night and attracts travellers from different parts of the country and abroad.
It is home to the largest population of giant saltwater crocodiles in India and is home to more than 215 species of avifauna including amazing eight varieties of kingfishers. The park harbours more than 70 species of mangroves.
‘The restrictions were imposed to prevent noise pollution during the census. The enumerators assisted by trained local forest staff and herpetologists, including noted crocodile researcher Dr Sudhakar Kar would cover Bhitarkanika river system besides innumerable creeks, water inlets and nullahs,’ said the divisional forest officer of the park, Bikash Ranjan Dash.