A group of farmers in a pocket of Nadia, who went to a lake for retting jute, stumbled upon a crocodile a few days ago.
The crocodile, suspected to have come from the Hooghly which is less than 200m from the spot, was captured by a team of foresters on Wednesday evening.
Hours later, it was released upstream, into the Hooghly at the Farakka barrage.
“Some local jute farmers spotted the marsh crocodile in an oxbow lake a few days ago. It had wandered off the Hooghly, which is nearby. We had been monitoring it, an adult male, around 7.5m long. With the help of a team of specialists, the crocodile was captured around 6.30pm on Wednesday. Later in the night, it was released into the river near the Farakka barrage, a documented habitat of freshwater crocodiles,” said Pradip Bauri, the divisional forest officer of Nadia.
The crocodile was found near Shimultala Ghat in Dhubulia, around 15km from Krishnagar and over 150km from the heart of Kolkata.
A resident, who runs an NGO for wildlife conservation, said a group of farmers go to the waterbody for retting jute.
Retting of jute is a kind of fermentation process of the plant to separate fibre from the non-fibrous woody stem.
“They spotted the crocodile multiple times but could not take pictures at the first few attempts because it was guarded by a thicket of water hyacinth. When pictures were finally clicked, they were shared with the forest department,” said Deba Baidya, secretary of Nature and Wildlife Conservation Trust.
On Wednesday, a team of experts from the crocodile project centre in Bhagabatpur in the Sunderbans, along with local forest officials, went to rescue the animal.
Marsh or mugger crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris) are medium-sized and broad-snouted. The reptiles are found in freshwater habitats across India. But since the Farakka barrage came up, their sightings in downstream Hooghly have gone down substantially, a forest official said.
In December 2021, the body of a crocodile was found on the banks of the Hooghly in Serampore. A month before that, a crocodile was spotted on the banks of the Hooghly in Purba Bardhaman, further upstream from the spot where the body was found. It was not clear if the two were the same.