A baby gharial was found in a Kendrapara river on August 29; the district is already home to saltwater and mugger crocodiles
Odisha’s Kendrapara became the only district in India August 29, 2021 to be home to all three species of crocodilians found in the country. This was after forest officials found a baby gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) in a river system of the district.
The live baby gharial was caught in the fishing net of a fisherman in the Paika river, JD Pati, the divisional forest officer of the Bhitarkanika National Park, located in the district, said.
He added that on October 25, 2016, the forest department in the district had rescued a live 12-foot-long mugger (Crocodylus palustris) from a fishing net in the Luna river.
Bhitarkanika National Park in the district is also the home of saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus).
Pati said the carcass of a nine-feet-long gharial had been found on August 22, 2018, in the Luna, near Jamapada village in Kendrapara district. But a live gharial had never been sighted in the river systems of the district before. It’s a highly endangered species, he added.
The forest officer said Odisha was also the only state in India to have all three species of crocodilians. “We are delighted that Kendrapara is now the abode of all the three species,” he said.
The crocodilian family consists of 27 different species that are subdivided into three families: True crocodiles, alligators and caimans and gharials.
All three species of crocodilians in the river systems of Odisha were on the verge of extinction by the 1970s. Piecemeal efforts were being made from the 1960s onwards to save them.
The gharial and saltwater crocodile conservation programme was first implemented in Odisha in early 1975 and subsequently, the mugger conservation programme was initiated.
The Ramatirtha centre, meant for mugger crocodiles within the Similipal Tiger Reserve, initially started with eggs and juveniles of muggers procured from Tamil Nadu.
Since 1984, more than 600 muggers have been captive-bred and released in Similipal, according to Pati.
A gharial project was started at Tikarpada in Angul district in 1975 with an aim to increase their population.
In 1975, the Union 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.
In January 2021, there were 1,768 saltwater crocodiles in Bhitarkanika, up from 96 in 1974.
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