The Odisha government is setting up a world-class interpretation center at Dangamal near Bhitarkanika National Park to showcase its efforts in protecting crocodiles and preserving its rich mangrove diversity.
The project, which has been approved under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project, will be taken up at an estimated cost of ₹3 crore.
Bhitarkanika, one of the State’s finest biodiversity hotspots, receives close to one lakh visitors every year. The tourist inflow has seen an increase lately.
The park is famous for its green mangroves, migratory birds, turtles, estuarine crocodiles and countless creeks. It is said to house 70% of the country’s estuarine or saltwater crocodiles, conservation of which was started way back in 1975.
‘BAULA’ PROJECT AT DANGAMAL:
‘Baula’ is the Oriya term for Saltwater Crocodile. At Dangmal in Bhitarkanika sanctuary, salt-water crocodile eggs have been collected locally; and young crocodiles have been released in the creeks and the estuaries, and more than 2200 crocodiles have been released in phases since 1977.
This operation has been reasonably successful and the crocodile population in the Bhitarkanika river system has gradually been built up. Above 50 released female Saltwater Crocodiles have laid eggs in the wild and bred successfully.
The annual census conducted in the river systems of Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary in January 2004 indicated that there were 1308 Saltwater crocodiles and is on increasing trend.
Critically Endangered— IUCN Red List.
Gharial (Gavial or fish-eating crocodile).
The male gharial has a distinctive boss at the end of the snout, which resembles an earthenware pot known in Hindi as Hence the name.
Habitat — foremost flowing rivers with high sand banks that they use for basking and building nests.
Gharials once inhabited all the major river systems of the Indian Subcontinent, from the Irrawaddy River in the east to the Indus River in the west. Their distribution is now limited to only 2% of their former range.
India: Girwa River, Chambal River, Ken River, Son River, Mahanadi River, Ramganga River.
Nepal: Rapti-Narayani River.
Schedule 1 species under Indian wildlife act, 1972.
Project Crocodile began in 1975 (Government of India+ United Nations Development Fund + Food and Agriculture Organization) — intensive captive breeding and rearing program.