BHUBANESWAR: To minimise stress and injury to crocodiles during capture and release, the Nandankanan Zoological Park has decided to use a 'croc muzzle bag' developed by an UK-based wildlife researcher.
It has started trial use of the bag to capture gharials at Nandankanan for their release in Satkosia gorge. The bag was developed by Peter Prodromou, a UK-based researcher. Sources in Forest and Environment department said during capture and release of crocodiles, both the reptile as well as personnel who capture them through traditional manual methods suffer.
There are instances when the animal sustains injuries whereas the forest staff also get hurt which is why the traditional methods will be chucked if the trial is successful. The department feels it will be highly useful for gharial recovery programme in Mahanadi river.
The bag works through sensory deprivation by covering the eyes and securing the jaws which calms the reptile down making it safer for the captor to restrain the crocodile from making any movement. It also makes the process of capturing the reptile smooth.
Being a soft material which is light weight and manoeuvrable, the bag provides protection when the reptile attempts thrashing and reduces pressure on integumentary sense organs (ISOs) during the capture. Besides, it can be used in any water clarity and turbidity.
Deputy Director of Nandankanan Sanjeet Kumar said, the zoo received a few sample bags from Peter and James Szewczyk, another researcher, to carry out the trial on the gharials. "Once the trial is successful and staff are trained to use the bags, it will be introduced to capture crocodiles, especially for ongoing gharial recovery programme in Mahanadi river with the support from Satkosia Wildlife Division," Kumar added.
Advisor of gharial recovery programme Prof Sudarsan Maharana said, the decision to opt for trial use of the 'croc muzzle bag' was guided by the fact that it won’t require drying the entire breeding pool to capture the gharial.
"For capturing gharials, the breeding pools have to be dried up. Once it is done and one of the animals is caught, it leads to infighting among inhabiting reptiles. This causes injuries and stressful conditions," he added.
He said that the traditional capture methods use a gunny bag or net which causes stress to the reptile. The risk of damage to head or injury to gharial is always high in such a process. The trial is currently being carried out in small pools to train staff.
However, the muzzle bag will be used in the main breeding pool, world's largest breeding pool for gharial with a depth of 30 feet, to capture the fish-eating crocodiles soon. "We are planning to release gharials of about two metre in Mahanadi river early next year," he informed.