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Croc count in Bhitarkanika

- Census to include new areas where reptiles have been seen

Kendrapara, Dec. 28: Rise in incidences of man-animal conflict and trespassing of crocodiles into human habitations have prompted officials of Bhitarkanika National Park to expand the limits of the reptiles’ annual headcount.

The annual census of these reptiles got under way today under the stewardship of forest personnel and crocodile experts and researchers.

“The ambit of the annual census covering water bodies has been extended to areas outside the national park water bodies,” said divisional forest officer of the Rajnagar mangrove (wildlife) forest division Manoj Kumar Mahapatra.

Earlier, the headcount was confined to the Bhitarkanika river system, water inlets, creeks and nuhlas. But with reports of crocodiles being sighted in villages, the census will cover new areas.

“Covering of newer areas has become essential in view of instances of crocodiles being spotted in areas outside the animals’ habitation corridors. The water bodies, where crocodiles were sighted, are close to human habitations and this often triggers man-animal conflicts,” Mahapatra said.

The upstream of the Brahmani, Baitarani and Kharasrota river system has been identified as possible corridors of the crocodiles.

Several villages in Chandballi block of Bhadrak district, blocks in Kendrapara, are located along the upstream of these rivers. The majority of croc-man conflict cases, registered this year, have been reported from these places.

This has led park authorities to take initiatives such as poster and leaflets campaigns to sensitise residents at vulnerable villages.

As it had been found that crocodiles attack humans at bathing ghats, local people were asked to stay away from river and water bodies and advised to use tube wells and wells instead.