Intruding crcodiles put Bhitarkanika authorites in a bother

Kendrapara: With the breeding season of estuarine crocodiles fast approaching, Bhitarkanika National Park authorities in Kendrapara district are in a spot of bother.

Frequent intrusion of crocodiles into places of human habitations has triggered man-animal conflict in a number of villages, official sources said.

On Wednesday, an intruding crocodile killed a 13-year-old boy at Balichandrapur while angry locals had beaten to death a rogue crocodile last week in sanctuary-side Rajasahi village, the sources said.

Since past one week, forest personnel have caught at least two crocodiles alive which had trespassed into village water-bodies, thereby saving them from facing people`s fury, the sources said.

Disturbing trends of reptiles interference in village areas has left the forest personnel in a quandary. Measures to curtail the man-animal conflict are underway. The forest department is gearing up to tackle the situation in view of the rise in cases of crocodile intrusion into village-side rivers, rivulets, water-bodies and creeks.

"It has turned out to be a challenge for us both to ensure safety of men, domesticated animals besides, protecting the endangered estuarine crocodiles. Steps have been taken in this regard", said Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (Wildlife) Forest Division.

In recent past, salt-water crocodiles on the prowl often trespassed into water-bodies in and near sanctuary-side human settlements triggering panic among villagers. Since past one year, nine adult and sub-adult salt-water crocodiles have met tragic end after trespassing into places of human habitation. Similarly rampaging crocodiles have claimed eight human lives besides that of over 100 cattle.

The forest department has launched cash incentive scheme for people for information on act of trespass by crocodiles. The informer would receive Rs 500 as incentive. The purpose of the scheme is to drive away the crocodilees on time before they could harm humans or domesticated animals. Besides, service groups of skilled fishermen are also pressed into service to chase the reptiles from places of human habitations.

Locals living along crocodile-infested rivers are also asked to remain alert and instructed not to venture into water-bodies. River bathing ghats in some places where crocodiles roam around are being fenced with bamboo-pole barrier to protect the people, the DFO said.

The species are itinerant in nature and stray into adjoining water-bodies because of its increase in hyper-salinity contents. After a temporary sojourn, they leave for their permanent habitation corridors within the Bhitarkanika habitation corridors, according to forest officials.

Alogether 1646 estuarine crocodiles were enumerated along Bhitarkanika`s water bodies this year. Wildlife researchers studying salt water crocodiles are of the view that habitat of these species was getting squeezed in about 26 square kilo metre of water bodies within the national park. These reptiles prefer the ideal water bodies because of its salinity content. The salinity level in some of the water bodies might be dropping proving less ideal for crocodiles.