No. of crocodiles in Bhitarkanika increases

Kendrapara: The head-count of estuarine crocodiles of Bhitarkanika river system in Orissa`s Kendrapara district increased, official sources said today.

"During census this year, the figure showed that a total of 1654 crocodiles were inhabiting the water bodies and water-inlets along the wetlands of Bhitarkanika against 1610 found last year," Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, divisional forest officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) forest division, said.

The latest head-count exercise report of the reptiles found nearly two dozen sub-adult white crocodiles. Enumerators and wildlife personnel who spotted these rare species during census operation said the animals were six to 10 feet long.

"The typical colour pattern might have been due to hormonal disorder or imbalance. It might not have been genetically induced. All the white crocs fall under sub-adult category. None of the adults measuring above 12 foot length were found to be albino ones," Mohapatra said.

At present, `Gori` is the lone adult white crocodile staying in the wildlife sanctuary. The 36-year-old and 18-feet-long female crocodile, has been lying in captivity in a pen inside the crocodile research project here.

"Genetic characteristics of sub-adult albino crocodiles need further research and study," Mahapatra said.

There has been steady growth in numbers of the salt water crocodiles over the years. While it was 1572 in 2009, 2010 saw 1610 crocs and the latest census recorded 1654 crocs living along Bhitarkanika`s water-bodies, census report said.

Of the counted crocs, 531 were hatchlings or babies and 377 yearlings within a year age group, 304 juveniles above two years, 166 sub-adults of six to 10 feet long and 277 adults measuring over 10 foot.