Salinity rise in water driving crocs to stray from habitats

The straying of crocodiles away from their habitats was earlier attributed scarcity of food in the sanctuary, especially during monsoon months, but now wildlife experts have added one more reason: Extreme salinity in water in the Bhitarkanika river system.

Disturbed by the increasing salinity level in water in the wildlife sanctuary, the crocodiles are moving towards less saline water-bodies close to human habitation, an official report said.

''The reptiles were never earlier sighted at villages surrounding the Bhitarkanika sanctuary,'' Manoj Kumar Mohapatra, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar mangrove (wildlife) forest division, said.

The Bhitarkanika river system, home to about 2,000 estuarine crocodiles, is now undergoing a hyper-salinity process not conducive to their habitation, Mohapatra said.
He said the crocodile attacks on humans mostly take place during new moon and full moon periods when their habitation corridors get hyper saline.

The Forest Department, wiser after the human casualty, has asked residents of villages adjoining the sanctuary not to go out into rivers and other water bodies.
Apart from this, two groups of skilled fishermen have been engaged to spot and chase away the reptiles whenever they are seen near human habitations. Plans are afoot to put more groups of fishermen into the job.

The Forest Department has chalked out a comprehensive plan to sensitise the villages with the cooperation of panchayati raj institutions, officials said.

Villagers have also been asked to immediately inform the forest officials whenever they spot straying crocodiles in water bodies, officials said.

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