Wildlife & Biodiversity

Decapitated body of mugger crocodile found in Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary

Forest officers suspect the reptile was hacked by fishers when it got stuck their nets

 
By Ashis Senapati
Published: Monday 05 July 2021
Headless body of mugger crocodile found in Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary. Photo: Ashis Senapati

The decapitated body of a three-feet-long Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) was found on July 4, 2021 on the banks of River Mahanadi near Binikei temple within Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary in Odisha‘s Angul district. The incident left forest officials and environmentalists shocked.

The crocodile died a few days ago, according to Suvendu Behera, assistant conservator of forest, Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary, adding that they are investigating the cause of death. Behera said:

We suspect the reptile was choked by fishing nets in the river and fishers hacked its head to save their nets. It could have also lost its life due to illegal blast or dynamite fishing in upstream Mahanadi and drifted towards the sanctuary.

The carcass was sent to the veterinary hospital at Satkosia for autopsy, he added. 

Blast fishing is one of the most destructive forms of fishing and indiscriminately kills any animal in the blast area from small fish to crocodiles and dolphins.

Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary is spread over 795.52 square kilometres across four districts: Angul, Budh, Cuttack and Nayagarh. The water bodies of Satkosia are home to around 108 muggers, according to the 2021 census.  

Mugger crocodiles are covered under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Since 1982, the species has been marked ‘vulnerable’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. 

It is a medium-sized broad-snouted crocodile native to the freshwater habitats. The species feeds on insects, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals. 

The discovery of the headless mugger crocodile, which is one of the three crocodile species found in the area, left wildlife enthusiasts baffled.

Sudhakar Kar, a noted herpetologist and the former wildlife researcher of Odisha Forest department, said:

The mugger is the least ferocious crocodile breed in the region. They have never harmed any villager or domestic animal. In many places in the state, fishers are involved in conservation of the crocodiles.

Illegal fishing, construction of dams, barrages, irrigation canals, siltation, changes in the river course, artificial embankments and sand-mining caused excessive, irreversible loss of riverine habitat this threatens the existence of the species, added Kar.

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