BHUBANESWAR - The population of saltwater crocodiles in Orissa’s Bhitarkanika National Park, the world’s largest rookery of Olive Ridley turtles, has gone up to 1,572 this year from 1,498 in January 2008. In 2006, the Guinness Book of World Records adjudged a 23-foot-long saltwater crocodile from Bhitarkanika the biggest crocodile in the world.
The annual census in the park, some 170 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, was conducted during Jan 12-18 this year, jointly by wildlife department officials and NGO representatives.
‘We used non-mechanised boats to conduct the exercise. We also used GPS (Global Positioning System) to track the crocodiles,’ Sudhakar Kar, a crocodile researcher in the state’s wildlife department, told IANS.
The 1,572 crocodiles consisted of 538 hatchlings, 374 yearlings, 256 juveniles, 144 sub-adults and 260 adults. There were two giant crocodiles measuring more than 20 feet each, Kar added.
Bhitarkanika, in the coastal district of Kendrapada, is also famous for attracting a large number of migratory birds every winter.
In 1975, the forest and environment ministry of the state in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had started a crocodile breeding and rearing project in the park.