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Rise in estuarine crocodiles population in Bhitarkanika, Odisha

There has been a marked rise in population of estuarine crocodiles along Bhitarkanika National Park's water bodies in Odisha's Kendrapara district.

Kendrapara (Odisha): There has been a marked rise in population of estuarine crocodiles along Bhitarkanika National Park's water bodies in Odisha's Kendrapara district.

The 2015 census figure of salt-water crocodiles released today put the figure at 1665 whereas the last year's number stood at 1,644.

On the other hand, crocodiles' number was counted at 1649 in 2013.

The break-up of crocs growth-wise is hatchlings- 511, yearlings- 306, juveniles- 317, sub-adults- 147, adults- 308 and 3 of above 20-feet-long, according to officials.

The croc headcount exercise went on from January 1 to 12.

Initially, foggy and overcast weather conditions had hindered the enumeration of crocs but with weather brightening up, the exercise was carried out in a smooth manner, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Kedra Kumar Swain said.

He said 26 teams comprising crocodile experts and wildlife personnel undertook the operation during early morning hours and during the sunset.

The whole of 145 square kilo metre area of the national park besides an estimated 50 square kilo metre pockets located outside the protected forest were brought under the purview of croc headcount.

The major highlights of census findings this year is that at least three giant sized crocodiles above 20 foot long were spotted during the annual enumeration operation.

This includes the 22-foot-long crocodile, which figures in the Guinness book records as the World's largest living estuarine crocodile.

The giant reptile was spotted firmly ensconced in Mahisnsadiha water-inlet of the Bhitarkanika river system. All the giant crocodiles were male species, Swain said.

This apart, the enumerators during annual headcount drive spotted about a dozen of numbers of albino crocs. These species came under the sub-adult category measuring above 6 feet.

Besides these species in the wild, Gori a 39-year-old female white crocodile is being reared in captivity at Dangamal Crocodile Research Center, said crocodile researcher SudhakarKar, who headed the census operation.

The croc-infested Bhitarkanika river system apart, the 104-member census team covered the water-bodies in and around the Mahanadi deltaic region. The range of headcount was expanded in view of frequent sighting of these animals in riverside villages.

In all 82 crocodiles were sighted outside the national park area while 1583 crocs were counted inhabiting in the national park water-bodies, said forest officials.

The census findings have made it amply 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, added the officials.