1682 Crocos Live in Bhitarkanika National Park, About 12 Ablino

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Kendrapara : Wildlife enumerators have spotted about a dozen of highly threatened albino salt- water crocodiles in the brackish water bodies and water-inlets along the wetlands of Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha’a Kendrapara district.

Though the latest census counted a marginal rise in the number of estuarine crocodiles, the sighting of white crocs has provided them something to cheer about, wildlife lovers said.

The number of crocodiles has increased to 1,682 from last year’s census figure of 1,671 such reptiles.

However, the internationally acclaimed Bhitarkanika Ramsar wetland site continues to be the congenial habitat of salt-water crocodiles with the swampy mangrove-infested region housing the largest number of these reptiles.

The region is criss-crossed by innumerable water inlets, creeks and nullahs all forming the part of Bhitarkanika river system.

The enumerators who conducted the three-day headcount of salt-water crocodiles from January 3 to January 8 have sighted around a dozen of albino crocs ensconced along the water-bodies of this wetland.

These white species came under sub-adult and adult category with one of it tentatively measuring 14 foot long, an official said.

Besides water bodies inside the sanctuary, the enumerators also extensively covered vulnerable riverside villages where reports of man-croc conflict had reached a flashpoint in recent past.

However, sighting of these reptiles was few, they said, adding that the census team also covered the water-bodies in and around the Mahanadi deltaic region. The spheres of headcount exercise had to be expanded in view of frequent sighting of these animals in riverside villages.

The census findings have made it clear that 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, said crocodile researcher Sudhakar Kar, who headed the census team.

The breakup of crocodiles is Hatchlings- 608, yearlings- 334, juvenile-266, sub adult- 172, adult- 302.

While 3 giant size crocodiles of 20 foot or above were sighted, 18 more large sized crocs of 16 to 20 foot long were spotted by the enumerators, informed Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya.