Bhubaneswar, August 30 (LocalWire): The conservation programme of the critically-endangered gharial crocodiles received a setback after two carcasses of the reptiles were found in the Satakosia gorge of Mahanadi river in Angul district.
The death of these species at a time when the forest department has undertaken a pilot telemetry transmitter project to conserve them has put forest department personnel in a quandary.
The post mortem report found death due to natural causes.
The population of gharial has now come down to eight in Satakosia area, said the forest range officer, Satakosia forest range, Jayant Patnaik.
Last month, five gharial crocodiles (three females and two males) were released in Satakosia gorge with biotelemetry transmitters fitted into their bodies to track their migratory movement and these deaths are a matter of concern, he said.
The gharial species, accorded threatened status by the International Union of Conservation of Nature, are fast disappearing from their habitats in Satakosia gorge. Despite conservation measures launched in the past, only ten gharials have been sighted in the wild by the enumerators. With the latest report of mortality, the population of these reptiles has further come down to eight.
Incidentally Odisha is the lone state in the country where three species of crocodiles- salt-water, gharial and mugger- are found inhabiting in the river systems.
The forest department had earlier adopted captive rearing of these animals so that their population could register a rise. But the experiment failed to yield the desired result. Though around 800 gharials, artificially bred in captivity, were released in the wild, they could not be spotted later on.
The rear and release of the salt-water, mugger and gharial crocodiles has been going on since 1975, funded by the United National Development Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The conservation project for estuarine crocodiles undertaken in Bhitarkanika was successful while a similar UNDP-funded ‘gharial croc’ conservation project launched simultaneously in Angul district’s Tikarpada Sanctuary covering Satakosia gorge has proved to be a failure.
The mugger crocodile conservation project in Ramatirtha in Ganjam district was a success with rise in their population.