HYDERABAD: Two decades ago, the mugger crocodiles of the Manjira Wildlife Sanctuary were considered a threatened species. But fast forward to 2018, the number of members of this threatened species who made Manjira sanctuary their home has increased manifold thanks to the government’s intervention and the measures taken by the Forest Department.
According to a research conducted by zoologists on status and distribution of mugger crocodile in the sanctuary, the density of their population is a healthy 5.1 per square kilometer (sqkm) from the meagre 0.41 per sqkm back in 1990. Back in 1978, when the sanctuary was granted permission by Central government to breed and re-introduce the species into the wild, the mugger crocodiles numbers in the sanctuary were as low as seven adults and five sub adults. But thanks to breeding programme taken up after that government decision and conservation efforts by Forest Department, the total number of the species has risen to at least 171 in 2017.
The study was conducted over a span of six years from January 2011- June 2017 by K Krishna Prasad, a research scholar from the zoology department of Osmania University, led by his research guide Dr Chelmala Srinivasulu and with the cooperation of Telangana Forest Department officials.
The researchers went about in a boat at night with a powerful spotlight. Whenever a pair of eyes above the water surface would glow, they would stop the boat and note down various details, including numbers and size of the species. Human-animal conflict Speaking to Express, Dr Srinivasulu pointed out that with rise in numbers of the mugger crocodiles, there are high chances of rise in human-animal conflict. Across the sanctuary which is just a strip of Manjira river and a few meters of river bank, agricultural farms run very close to the river. At times of flooding, there are often reports of the animals getting into fields.
Across the span of their study, majority of mugger crocodiles, 27 per cent to be precise, sighted at night were 3.1 to 4 meters long or 10-13 feet, followed by 2.1 to 3m (26.5 per cent), 1.1 to 2m (20 per cent), less than 0.7m (15.5 per cent) and 0.7 to 1m (6 per cent). They also came across huge crocodiles measuring above 4m, about five per cent of total sightings. Least number of sightings at night were that of 0.7 to 1m size.