The Bhitarkanika National Park will be closed to tourists for nine days from 5th January to 13th January 2024 to conduct a salt water crocodile counting, according to a forest official. The salt water crocodile census will be organised under the supervision of the DFO of Rajnagar Mangrove and Wildlife Division.
Tourists are not permitted within the park in order to reduce noise pollution and ensure that the census drive runs successfully. Every year, a three-month ban from May 1 to July 31 on the entry of tourists and visitors to the Bhitarkanika in Odisha was imposed as the crocodile nesting season was underway.
They would cover the water inlets, nullahs, and several streams where crocodiles are common. Counting will take place both during the day and at night, using Huli boats. A total of 22 teams will be used to count the crocodiles, and around 100 people will be taught in the process.
During the counting process last year, 1793 estuarine crocodiles were sighted in and around the water of the Rajnagar forest division.
Forest guards have been instructed to keep watch on the eggs of the reptiles as the wild animals like snakes, wild boars and fishing cats may devour and destroy the eggs. Forest guards will also keep watch on the movements of mother crocodiles. The forest department has also restricted entry of locals into the forest.
Entry of tourists into crocodile infested areas in Bhitarkanika, Dangamala and Ragadapati forest blocks will be restricted, said Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Bhitarkanika National Park.
Crocodiles mate between February and April and nesting takes place in May. A female crocodile, on an average, lays about 45 eggs. Hatchlings emerge from the eggs after 70-80 days. The mother crocodile actively guards the nest, usually prepared with mangrove twigs, leaves and mud.
Last year, 64 salt water crocodile nesting sites were spotted at the creeks, nullahs and river system under the Bhitarkanika National Park by the forest officials. As per the census carried out in January this year, there are 1,644 salt water crocodiles in Bhitarkanika river system.