Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Rajnagar, Jan 21:
Bhitarkanika National Park famous for the endangered salt water crocodiles has seen an increase of the rare species to 1671, an annual census conducted by the Odisha forest department this year has found.
In the national park and its neighbouring water bodies, the number of vertebrates has increased as compared to last year. The previous year there were 1665 estuarine crocodiles, while the numbers have increased by six to 1671 this year, according to the census report.
Under the leadership of Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya the counting of these rare salt water crocodiles was undertaken in the Bhitarkanika National Park and its neighbouring water bodies from January 13 to 16.
Wildlife experts Dr Sudhakar Kar and Dr Shivprasad Parida along with 125 persons were divided into 26 teams for the census process.
As many as 16 teams were engaged in the Bhitarkanika range, seven teams in Rajnagar range, one team in Gahirmatha range and two teams in Mahakalapada region counted the crocodiles while they were taking sun bath in the morning and with spot lights in the evening.
The counting found 597 babies, 342 one-year-olds, 269 two-year-olds, 164 four to five years old and 299 eight-year-old crocodiles in the area.
In Bhitarkanika area 1580 and outside it 91 crocodiles have been identified, according to DFO Acharya.
In Kanika range area 1284, Rajnagar range 296, Mahakalapada 69, Gahirmatha range 22 have been identified in the counting.
In 2008-09, the number of crocodiles in the national park was 1572, in 2009-10 the number was 1610, in 2010-11 the crocodiles census found 1654 of them in the region, in 2011-12 their numbers decreased to 1646, in 2012-13 the salt lake crocodile numbers increased by 3 to 1649.
In 2013-14 the number again dropped to 1644, while in 2014-15 the census identified 1665 crocodiles and in 2015-16 the head count of these engendered was found to be 1671.
Interestingly, the annual census found in Patsalamukh, Gururapal, Mahisamada, Kuajora, Bhramaramari, Kathua, Balijora, Khola, Thanapati, Ganjaikhia, Kalibhanjapur areas around 18 to 22 foot long 32 gigantic crocodiles.
These crocodiles will be 100 to 120 years old, according to forest officials.