Kendrapara: Wildlife personnel in Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha`s Kendrapara district have spotted 32 nesting sites of estuarine crocodiles as the annual breeding ritual of these reptiles have reached its final stage.
The nests were sighted by wildlife enumerators of the forest department along the innumerable nullahs, creeks and water-inlets in the Bhitarkanika river system, an ideal habitat salt water crocodiles.
The figure may increase as the counting of estuarine nests is still on, said Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (Wildlife) Forest Division, Manoj Kumar Mahapatra.
Female crocodiles lay 50 to 60 eggs and the hatchlings usually emerge from the nests after 70 to 80 days of the incubation period. Forest department officials said due care has been take by wildlife staff to ensure that crocodile 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 number of salt water crocodiles, the species which are not found in any other river system in Odisha, as per the latest census, in Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary stood at 1,654.
The wildlife sanctuary has remained out of bounds for tourists and visitors to ensure disturbance-free annual nesting of crocodiles. Besides, the animals turn violent and restive over human interference in their habitat. 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 happened at a snail`s pace. Growth is getting stabilised and is also getting stagnated," the DFO said, adding nowhere in the country are these species of crocodiles spotted in such abundance.
Wildlife researchers studying salt water crocodiles are of the view that the habitat of this species is getting squeezed in about 26 square kilometre of water bodies within the national park. These reptiles prefer these water bodies because of their ideal salinity contents. The salinity level in some of the water bodies might be dropping, becoming less ideal for crocodiles.