*Odisha emerges as the only state to house all species of crocodiles*
In a first, in 46 years, Odisha emerges as the only state in India to have all three species of crocodiles. Let us find out more about what ushered Odisha’s success, where else to find Crocodiles in India, and their role in sustaining marine ecosystems, in this story.
*Why are crocodiles a critically endangered species?*
The species has been subjected to incessant killings at humans’ hands to fulfill their commercial needs. The crocodiles are often killed for food and hides. The reptilian species is also particularly vulnerable to habitat change, as a result of cattle ranching encroaches.
– *The perennial Human-wildlife conflict*:
The encounters between humans and crocodiles are not particularly pleasant! While most species of crocodiles consider humans prey, they hunt them the same way. Thus, the encounters of crocodiles with humans often turn out to be fatal for any one of them.
But, it is not just the crocodiles who go savage on humans. Humans are equally savage in killing commercially farmed crocodiles for expensive hides. In some countries, like Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, and South Africa, crocodile meat is considered a conventional diet. While in the west, it is considered an exotic delicacy.
*The guardians of the marine ecosystem*:
Crocodiles are an indispensable part of the ecosystem, popularly known as the guardians of the marine ecosystem. However, the ferocious and intimidating looks of the crocodiles with large jaws and canine teeth is sure to convince you, otherwise.
Crocodiles are known for their fierce digestive system and are thus the apex predators. They maintain the balance of the ecosystem by preventing fishes and other marine animals from overcrowding.
The crocodiles guard critical water points against terrestrial animals in the dry season, which helps in preserving the marine ecosystem for future regeneration.
*What are the three species of crocodiles, found in India?*
There are three popularly known species of crocodiles, found in India, namely:
– The Mugger Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris)
– The Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)
– The Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
1.) *Mugger Crocodile*:
The Mugger crocodiles are one of the three crocodilians, found in the Indian subcontinent. They mostly live in lakes, freshwater ponds, the major rivers of India, or man-made reservoirs.
In India, the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, located in the Anaimalai Hills of Tirupur district across the Amaravathi river is notable for housing the largest population of the mugger crocodile. In South India, the Chinnar, Thennar, and Pambar rivers house the largest wild population of Mugger crocodiles. They are also found in the freshwater lakes in the Ranthambore National Park.
2.)* Gharial Crocodile*:
The Gharial crocodiles are found in the northern part of the Indian Subcontinent in major rivers, like the Ganges, Chambal, Mahanadi, and Son.
3.) *Saltwater Crocodile*:
The Saltwater Crocodiles are the largest crocodilians among the crocodile family and the largest of all living reptiles in the world. They are found in the saline and brackish mangrove swamp forest of Bhitarkanika and the Sunderbans.
*What ushered Odisha’s success story?*:
The return of the Gharials in the state of Odisha is a result of the relentless and tireless efforts of the officials, employed in monitoring the crocodiles closely round-the-clock with the use of drones.
Around 50 forest officials from six forest divisions are closely monitoring the hatchlings by camping close to their habitats and patrolling the water bodies. They have played a significant role in spreading awareness across 300 villages located close to the river for the preservation of Gharials.
For the first time, since the Gharials were introduced in the rivers of Odisha, back in 1975, the state has seen their natural nesting. As many as 28 hatchlings were spotted in the Mahanadi river and the Baladamara area near the Satkosia range, towards May end.
Thus, with the natural increase in Gharial count in Odisha, the state has emerged as the only state to have all three species of crocodiles. The freshwater Gharials are found at Satakosiya in Mahanadi and the muggers & saltwater crocodiles are found at Bhitar, Kanika National park in the state of Odisha.