Threatened albino crocodile found

Kendrapara: Wildlife personnel have spotted highly threatened albino salt-water crocodiles in the brackish water bodies and water-inlets along the wetlands of Bhitarkanika National Park. Though the latest census of these animals has come out with a disturbing trend in drop in the number of estuarine crocodiles, the sighting of white crocs has provided them something to cheer about.

While conducting the census of salt-water crocodiles recently, the enumerators sighted five albino crocs ensconced along water-bodies of Bhitarkanika, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Manoj Kumar Mahapatra said. These white species came under sub-adult category measuring above 6 feet.

Meanwhile, the 2012 census figure of salt-water crocodiles released on Monday put the figure at 1,646 whereas last year`s number stood at 1,654, Mahapatra said.

Experts, however, maintained that foggy and overcast weather condition hindered the foolproof enumeration of crocs. "Sighting of baby and young crocs was affected due to fog. But it could be construed that population of estuarine crocodiles has got stabilised in Bhitarkanika. The marginal drop in number is not a cause of worry," Mahapatra said.

Census figures of earlier years were 1654 (2011), 1610 (2010), 1572 (2009), 1498 (2008), 1482 (2008), 1454 (2006), 1449 (2005) and 1358 (2004).

Apart from sighting of white crocs, another highlight of census findings this year is spotting of at least six giant crocodiles above 18 foot long. All of them are male, he said.

The croc-infested Bhitarkanika river system apart, the 153-member census team covered water-bodies in and around the Mahanadi deltaic region. The spheres of headcount exercise were expanded this year in view of frequent sighting of these animals in riverside villages.

The enumerators covered vulnerable riverside villages where reports of man-croc conflict had reached a flashpoint in recent past. However, only a few reptiles were sighted there, Mahapatra said.