Wildlife & Biodiversity

Bhitarkanika census finds an increase of 15 saltwater crocodiles from last year

There are now 1,757 crocodiles in the park, the census conducted on January 3, 2020, found. Last year, there were 1,742

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Saturday 04 January 2020
A saltwater crocodile in Bhitarkanika National Park

The population of the saltwater or estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) has increased in the water bodies of Odisha’s Bhitarkanika National Park and its nearby areas in Kendrapara district, with forest officials counting 1,757 individuals in this year’s annual reptile census on January 3, 2020.

Last year, they had counted 1,742 crocodiles in the area. 

“We formed 22 teams to count the crocodiles in all the creeks and rivers within the park and its nearby areas. The peak winter, exposure of more than fifty per cent of mud banks and the lunar cycle made January 3 an excellent date for the counting of the reptiles,” Bikasah Ranjan Dash, the divisional forest officer of Bhitarkanika National Park, said.

“During the census, we sighted 620 hatchlings, 325 yearlings, 288 juveniles, 185 sub-adults (six to eight feet long) and 339 adults (more than 8 feet long). Last year, we had sighted 619 hatchlings, 347 yearlings, 273  juveniles, 178 sub-adults and 325 adults,” Sudhakar Kar, a herpetologist and former crocodile research officer of the state's forest and wildlife department, who led the 22 team members in the reptile census work, said.

The enumerators also sighted around 12 albino crocodiles and four giant crocodiles more than 20 feet long in the water bodies of Bhitarkanika during the census, Kar added.

Kar noted the gradual increase of the reptiles between 2000 and 2020. “A total of 1,192 estuarine crocodiles were counted during the reptile census of 2000, whereas in the 2001 census, the number of crocodiles reached 1,330. But 1,308 crocodiles were counted in 2002. In 2003, 1,342 and in 2004, 1,355 crocodiles were found. In 2005, the census figure was 1,449. In 2006, 1,454 crocodiles and in 2007, 1,482 crocodiles were found in Bhitarkanika. In 2008, 1,482 crocodiles were sighted. In 2009, 1,572 crocodiles and in 1,610 crocodiles were found in 2010. In 2011, the forest officials counted 1,654 but in 2012, the population of crocodiles decreased marginally as 1,646 reptiles were sighted. In 2013, 1,649 crocodiles were counted. In 2014, we counted 1,644 crocodiles and in 2015, we counted 1,665 crocodiles. In 2016, we found 1,671 and in 2017, the numbers of the reptile reached 1,682. In 2018, they were 1,698,” he said.

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