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Number of estuarine crocodiles in Bhitarkanika increases

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Kendrapara (Orissa), Jan 16 (PTI) The head-count ofestuarine crocodiles of Bhitarkanika river system in Orissa''sKendrapara district increased, official sources said today.

"During census this year, the figure showed that atotal of 1654 crocodiles were inhabiting the water bodiesand water-inlets along the wetlands of Bhitarkanika against1610 found last year," Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, divisionalforest officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) forest division,said.

The latest head-count exercise report of the reptilesfound nearly two dozen sub-adult white crocodiles. Enumeratorsand wildlife personnel who spotted these rare species duringcensus operation said the animals were six to 10 feet long.

"The typical colour pattern might have been due tohormonal disorder or imbalance. It might not have beengenetically induced. All the white crocs fall under sub-adultcategory. None of the adults measuring above 12 foot lengthwere found to be albino ones," Mohapatra said.

At present, ''Gori'' is the lone adult white crocodilestaying in the wildlife sanctuary. The 36-year-old and18-feet-long female crocodile, has been lying in captivity ina pen inside the crocodile research project here.

"Genetic characteristics of sub-adult albinocrocodiles need further research and study," Mahapatra said.

There has been steady growth in numbers of the saltwater crocodiles over the years. While it was 1572 in 2009,2010 saw 1610 crocs and the latest census recorded 1654 crocsliving along Bhitarkanika''s water-bodies, census report said.

Of the counted crocs, 531 were hatchlings or babiesand 377 yearlings within a year age group, 304 juveniles abovetwo years, 166 sub-adults of six to 10 feet long and 277adults measuring over 10 foot. .

Besides, as many as 26 large-size, above 20-foot-long crocodiles, were sighted by enumerators. This included 23foot-long male crocodiles that figures in Guinness book ofrecords as World''s largest estuarine crocodile, Mahapatrasaid.

The exact length of crocodiles measured may not beimmaculate as the department has not adhered to under-waterimaging system of videography.

The forest department has desisted from using thetechnique lest it disturbs the reptiles. Besides, thedepartment is not equipped with such state-of-the-artequipment, he said.

Meanwhile, the steady rise in number of crocodiles hasled to unleashing of man-animal conflicts in villages that lieconnected to Bhitarkanika water-bodies.

Crocodiles in recent past have strayed intovillage-side rivers triggering violent conflict with humanswith four being devoured by rampaging reptiles and severalsustaining injury. Villagers in retaliation had killed twocrocodiles in recent times as well.

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