| An estuarine crocodile killed after getting entangled in fishing net. Telegraph picture |
Kendrapara, May 11: The diminishing food reserves in crocodile habitation corridors in the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary has prompted authorities to tighten their noose on unlawful fishing activities in the water bodies there.
In the latest crackdown, forest officials seized four boats deployed for fishing in the crocodile-infested water bodies.
Unauthorised fishing has led to a drastic fall in the food of crocodiles. As a result, the reptiles are found moving out of the sanctuary’s river system to water bodies in human habitats.
“We were informed of illegal fishing in Maipura rivulet near Gupti village that comes under the sanctuary area. Four fishing boats, besides fishing nets, were seized from the spot. However, the fishermen who had set up the nets to catch fish managed to evade arrest. But they have been identified and would be arrested soon,” said Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, divisional forest officer, Rajnagar mangrove (wildlife) forest division.
“Any form of human interference, including fishing activity within the Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary, amounts to infringement of law under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The forest department has stepped up vigil to intercept cases of human intrusion as it is detrimental to wildlife, flora and fauna,” Mahapatra added.
The department is laying emphasis on curbing illegal fishing as boats and fishing activities in the habitation zones of the reptiles frequently disturb the estuarine crocodiles.Fish and crabs form an important part of the food chain of these animals. Inland fishing is decimating the reptiles’ food reserve. Lack of availability of food might be one of the factors leading the crocodiles to migrate to village-side water bodies.
The adult crocodiles stick to their habitation zone while the sub-adult and juvenile reptiles stray into adjoining rivers connected to Bhitarkanika river system.
This is giving rise to man-crocodile conflict.The crux of the problem is that crocodiles are now found moving upstream, where thickly populated villages are located. As a result, man-crocodile conflict is resurfacing.
It is not the scarcity of food that is driving the reptiles out of their habitat, but inconsistency in the water’s salinity in the area that has affected migratory behaviour of estuarine crocodiles, forest officials said.