Somatirtha Purohit

People living in villages alongside the Mahanadi river should not fret after spotting gharials in the waters and instead take care to promote peaceful co-existence with wildlife, appeals a top Forest official in Odisha.

Prof Sudarshan Maharana, the Forest department official while speaking on the sightings of a gharial near Madhusudan bridge over Mahanadi river in Cuttack ruled out any reason for panic over the reptile. 

On Friday, a large number of people gathered on the Madhusudan bridge after spotting a gharial in the waters and raised apprehensions of possible croc attack. 

However Maharana assured that in order to raise the population of gharials in natural ambience, the Odisha government has released as many as 17 of them in the Mahanadi river system. Four gharials have been fitted with GPS device for tracking. Forest staffs are monitoring their movement in and around the areas of Banki and Naraj. 

"People do not have to be afraid of these reptiles as they live only on fish and seldom attack larger animals like humans," said the officer.
Maharana informed that 13 of those released into the waters have not been spotted. Therefore, efforts are underway to trace them.

On May 2021, a forest protection team from Satkosia wildlife division had spotted a gharial nest with 28 hatchlings on the banks of Mahanadi river.

The sighting of the hatchlings has brought about a fresh lease of hope in the years-long efforts of the Odisha Forest department which had been desperately trying to increase the gharial population naturally.

Experts opine that lately, the habitats of gharials are under threat due to encroachment and extensive fishing. 

A critically endangered species of crocodile family, Gharials area protected species and listed in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Odisha is probably the only state in the country to have all three species of crocodilian family, the freshwater gharials, muggers and saltwater crocodiles.

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