BHUBANESWAR: Even as their declining number has raised an alarm among environmentalists, a lone gharial which had swum across Mahanadi river into Puri canal drawing in hordes of onlookers, was captured by forest officials on the outskirts of the City on Wednesday.
The 10-ft long snouted crocodile was netted near Rudrapur by officials of City Forest Division after being tracked for three days. It was lodged at Phulnakhara Range Office where it awaited to be transported to Tikarpada in Satkosia Wildlife Sanctuary.
The fish-eating crocodile is believed to have travelled from Mahanadi through Naraj into Kuakhai before entering the Puri Main Canal.
City DFO Paban Kumar Mishra said the crocodile was being tracked from Sunday when it was first spotted near Pratap Nagari by locals. While it initially triggered curiosity accompanied by panic, the forest officials did not want to take any chance as water level in the canal was low.
“Though gharials can travel up to 20 km, this one had swum barely about 4 km because of low water level. We have informed the DFO of Satkosia Forest Division to take it back so that it can be released in Mahanadi again. A team is on its way,” Mishra said.
Classified as critically endangered, gharials which were once bred at Tikarpada and released into Mahanadi, have witnessed a sharp decline in their population which is believed to have hit single figure by now in the river system.
Mahanadi and Satkosia Forest Divisions have now clamped down on illegal fishing in Mahanadi’s gorge stretches which fall under sanctuary limits to protect gharial, mugger and other fauna species.
Interestingly, this is not the first time a gharial managed to swim into Puri Main Canal. In 1994, a six-foot long crocodile was spotted near Pratap Nagari. The Forest officials had to shut down Naraj flood gate to capture the reptile but it could not sustain the stress and died.