Odishatv Bureau

Kendrapara: Sixteen white crocodiles have been sighted in the brackish water bodies of Odisha's Bhitarkanika National Park, the country's lone habitation for albino estuarine crocodiles, as per the latest census report released on Monday.

The crocodile population in Bhitarkanika has swollen to 1,768 from 95 four decades ago, the report said.

There were only two white crocodiles in Bhitarkanika when a crocodile conservation programme of the Centre and the UNDP was launched in 1975 while the number had increased to 15 last year, researcher Sudhakar Kar, who led the census team, said.

"We were earlier apprehensive of the mortality rate among albino crocodiles but as they have been spotted again, it seems the brackish water bodies of the national park have emerged as a favourable habitation for the reptiles," he said.

As per the report, 593 crocodiles are hatchlings, 367 yearlings, 30 juveniles, 152 sub-adults and 336 adults.

Estuarine crocodiles are also found in West Bengal's Sundarbans and mangrove wetlands in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands but the population of the reptiles is the highest in Bhitarkanika, he said.

Apart from the 16 white crocodiles in the wild, Bhitarkanika is also home to two members of the species living in captivity in the park's enclosure, including a 46-year-old female crocodile that shuns mating.

Bhitarkanika is home to the world's largest crocodile measuring 21 feet.

More than 70 per cent of the crocodiles were spotted in water bodies in the core area of the national park, reducing chances of man-animal conflict in riverside villages, the report said.

(With PTI Inputs)