The national park in Odisha is home to over 1,700 saltwater crocodiles
A 45-year-old fisher was killed by a crocodile June 12, 2021 in a creek near her village, Vekta around Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha’s Kendrapara district. Umarani Parida was fishing along with locals when she was dragged away by the reptile. Her half-eaten body was found in River Patasala on June 13.
“The incident happened around 5.30 pm. Some villagers raised an alarm and tried to save her. But the crocodile dragged her into deep water,” said Ashalata Mandal, a villager.
This was the sixth fatal crocodile attack near Bhitarkanika in 12 months.
Bhitarkanika, a vast tract of forest and saltwater swamp, is home to around 1,768 saltwater crocodiles, according to this year's reptile census. “In the recent months, many crocodiles strayed out of the park areas and entered the rivers, creeks and other water bodies near the park areas for laying eggs on the river banks and bushes,” said Bikash Ranjan Dash, divisional forest officer of the park.
He added that the family of the crocodile victims will be given a compensation of Rs 4 lakh.
The forest department has imposed a three-month ban from May 1 to July 31 on entering Bhitarkanika during the mating and nesting seasons of these crocodiles. But many locals illegally enter the forest areas to collect honey, wood, fish and crab. “The reptiles get disturbed by this and attack them,” informed forest officials.
The department has erected barricades on the banks of about 50 ponds and rivers in the park and its nearby areas to prevent the crocodiles from attacking human beings.
“We also warned riverside villagers not to enter rivers, creeks and other water bodies of Bhitarkanika and its nearby areas as they are infested with many ferocious estuarine crocodiles,” the forest officer added.
The exact number of crocodile attacks is unavailable in the forest department. But locals believe that at least six to ten persons are killed or maimed by crocodiles each year. “Most of the cases are not reported. People just go missing,” said Alekha Jena, a former MLA of Rajnagar, one of the areas hit hardest by crocodile attacks.
In 1975, the ministry of forest and environment, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, had started a crocodile breeding and rearing project in Dangamala within the Bhitarkanika Nationa Park. The area’s crocodile population started increasing ever since.
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