Kendrapara: There has been a marginal drop in population of estuarine crocodiles in the water bodies of Bhitarkanika National Park in Kendrapara district, according to the latest census data of the animal.
The 2014 census figure of saltwater crocodiles released today put their number at 1,644 while it stood at 1,649 in the previous year.
Forest officials said it was not a cause to worry as, in past years, there were instances of slight fall in the crocodile population which got stabilised later.
Wildlife experts, however, said foggy and overcast weather condition hindered foolproof enumeration of crocs. The figure could have been on the higher side had the weather been bright, they claimed.
They said the drop in salinity level in water bodies has become a major distracting factor for these reptiles.
"The sighting of baby and young crocs was affected due to fog. That might have led to the marginal drop in the census figure. But it could be construed that population of estuarine crocodiles has got stabilised in Bhitarkanika. The marginal drop in croc number is not a cause of worry," said Kedar Kumar Swain, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division.
The major highlights of census findings this year is that at least six giant size crocodiles above 20 feet long were spotted and all of them are male, the DFO said.
These include the 21-foot-long crocodile that figures in the Guinness Book of Records as the world`s largest estuarine crocodile. It was spotted firmly ensconced in Mahisnsadiha water inlet of the Bhitarkanika river system.
While 1555 crocs were counted living in the protected area of the national park, 89 reptiles were spotted inhabiting water zones outside the protected park area.
Besides the Bhitarkanika river system, the census team covered water bodies in and around the Mahanadi deltaic region. The spheres of headcount exercise were expanded due to frequent sighting of these animals in riverside villages.
The enumerators covered vulnerable riverside villages where reports of man-croc conflict had reached a flashpoint in the recent past, said officials.
The census findings have made it ample clear that the species are itinerant in nature and stray into adjoining water bodies because of its increase in hyper-salinity contents. After a temporary sojourn, they leave for their permanent habitation corridors within the Bhitarkanika habitation corridors.