CHENNAI: It was a scorching hot Sunday. Not just for the people at the Crocodile Bank in Mamallapuram but even for the scary reptiles that preferred to stay under water for most times. “They are active only in the mornings and late evenings during the summer,” says Yamini Bhaskar, assistant director, Madras Crocodile Bank Trust Centre, as we take a walk along with her towards the Crocodilians.
We watched about 10 people observing the huge reptiles with a pen and paper in hand. They are the crocodile enthusiasts – crocodilians who had come for a two-day workshop, ‘What’s that Crocodile?’ held at the Crocodile Bank. Taking us through the various activities done by the participants, Yamini said, “This is the second workshop of our reptile series; the first was exclusively about snakes. First, they had a guided tour of the crocodiles here and a behind the scenes tour where we showed them the crocodiles that were not on display for visitors.”
We approached a crocodilian, craning our necks looking for the big guy in the water and asked him, “So, where is it?” He pointed out but we are still unable to spot it. Crocodiles prefer to just laze around without moving an inch – just the occasional flexing of jaws. After an hour, the 10 crocodilians assembled together to share their observations.
“Birds were always thought to be their altruistic friend. But we observed that the night herons were clearly afraid of them. It backed away when the crocodile moved a little,” says Yuvan Deeban, a crocodile enthusiast, a naturalist and also a blogger.
The crocodilians observed 17 of the world’s 23 species. “They were taken for a night’s watch, observation sessions, scrubbed the exposures, the participants bonded with each other at the beach, played mafia past midnight and learnt a lot about the species by the end of the workshop,” she added.
Apart from theoretical presentations on their biology, conservation, man vs crocodiles and the embryology of eggs, the participants got some hands-on experience. “We helped dig out the eggs laid by a female and analyse the egg. We also checked if the baby inside was alive and well. We were also given some juvenile Siamese crocodiles to weigh and measure,” shares Yuvan.
At this point, we began talking to Greeshma, a software engineer who lets out the reason she turned to the huge reptiles. “I wanted to shed away my fear of creepy, crawly creatures,” she says. “The most fascinating moment was when we went for the night watch. We were given torches and asked to flash it at the crocs’ eyes. It was spectacular, all we could see was their eyes, shining like orange stars.”
So, afraid any longer? She laughed, “On a scale of 1 to 10, the pointer has come down to 2 from 9. I never thought I’d hold a baby crocodile in my hands, but I did! I understood a lot more about crocodiles here. They are scared of human beings as we are scared of them. They are seriously misunderstood creatures.”
And that is the ultimate purpose of the workshop – awareness. “Not just through lectures and PPTs, we want people to get down here and experience the creatures themselves. They are to be respected, understood and as for their tough exterior, they have a fascinating biology! Our ultimate aim is to create awareness about the possible conservation activities,” explains Yamini.
‘What’s in that Shell?’ workshop will be held on May 14 and 15. For details email to email@example.com