Odisha Now Home to All Three Crocodile Species As Gharials Make Comeback
Out of the several species of the Crocodilian family, India is home to three species – the Gharials, Saltwater crocodiles, and the Muggers. All these three species are now found in Odisha owing to the state’s constant conservation efforts since 1975 – with the introduction of the ‘Gharial and Saltwater crocodile conservation programme’. The Gharials have been spotted at Satakosia in Mahanadi, whereas Muggers and Saltwater crocodiles are present at the Bhitarkanika National Park.
A total of 28 Gharial hatchlings were spotted towards the end of May in the Mahanadi, in the Baladamara area near the Satkosia range. Gharial eggs need incubation for 70 days, and the hatchlings stay with their mothers for several weeks or even months. The officials have been monitoring the hatchlings closely with round-the-clock surveillance using drones.
After the original Gharials in the state perished, the state introduced 13 more Gharials over the past three years in the Mahanadi. Only eight of them have survived.
About 50 forest officials from six forest divisions are monitoring the hatchlings, camping close to their habitat, patrolling the water bodies, and spreading awareness across 300 surrounding villages located close to the river to help preserve the species.
Gharials, being different from Muggers, do not harm humans. But many people mistake them for crocodiles and consider them harmful.
“Gharials come to the shallow areas to lay eggs. Most of the gharials introduced in Odisha earlier were first kept in the Nandankanan zoo before being released into the river,” said Suvendu Behera, Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF), Angul.
Notably, Gharials are granted full protection by law and listed in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.