Prey again

Andaman villages now deal with crocodile menace

Published: Thursday 31 March 2005

first came the tsunami. Then the crocodiles. Many south Andaman villages have of late started complaining about frequent crocodile attacks. But the authorities are clueless about how to solve the problem.

Residents of Wandoor and Hut Bay villages are a especially troubled lot. Tsunami waves have pushed crocodiles closer to these villages, where they have found new hunting grounds. They frequently attack livestock and people. A considerable portion of Wandoor, 29 kilometres (km) from Port Blair, is now submerged and has become a crocodile hunting ground. The government had declared the area in and around Wandoor a 'national park' in 1983. The Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park (mgmnp) included 220 square km of territorial seawater that has been home for salt-water crocodiles for years. In fact, the area adjacent to mgmnp was declared the Lohabarrack Crocodile Sanctuary in 1981. But earlier the crocodiles never entered the village. Manik Dey, the area's elected representative, is worried: "We have filed a complaint with the Forest and Wild Life Department but no action has been taken yet. Where will we go now?" In Hut Bay, many villagers lived a nightmare when they saw crocodiles in front of their houses take away dead cattle after the tsunami. The passage connecting the village harbour's main berthing place with the island has been washed away. "Crocodiles chase us while we travel from the island to the berthing place. We don't know their exact number," says Paritosh Halder, an ex- pradhan (headman) of the village.

Forest department officers don't have a solution for the problem. They say there is little chance the crocodiles will return to their original habitat. "They are getting easy food here and this is the reason their movement inside the villages increases manifold during high tide," says Ambrose Dung Dung, Wandoor's forest officer. Ravi chadran, deputy conservator of forest, says: "Crocodiles are a migratory species. As seawater has entered the villages after the tsunami, they might have gone there too. I can comment on the matter only after I get the field report."

Wildlife groups, such as Wildlife sos , a non-governmental organisation (ngo), are against killing crocodiles to solve the problem. Subhasis Ray of Healthy Environment and Less Pollution, another ngo, suggests erecting grills around channels from where seawater enters during high tide.

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