In view of annual census of the salt water crocodiles, the forest authorities have decided to impose a 15-day ban on entry of tourists into Bhitarkanika National Park in Kendrapara district.
The ban will be imposed during the Christmas holidays from December 24, 2013 to Jan 8, 2014. The decision has been taken to prevent noise pollution during the counting of the reptiles, said Kedar Kumar Swain the Divisional Forest Officer of Bhitarkanika.
The peak winter, exposes more than 50 per cent of mud bank and lunar cycle which is suitable period for counting of the reptiles, he added. The head count drive of the endangered estuarine crocodiles would be conducted under the supervision of wildlife personnel. The enumerators assisted by trained local forest staff and some herpetologists including noted crocodile researcher Dr Sudhakar Kar of State Wildlife Department would cover Bhitarkanika river system besides innumerable creeks, water inlets and nullahs, said the forest officer.
In January this year, forest officials had sighted 1,649 estuarine crocodiles including four reptiles measuring more than 20 feet, indicating a marginal increase in their population which was 1646 crocodiles in 2012.
"Of 1649 crocodiles - 486 were hatchlings, 356 yearlings, 395 juveniles, 128 sub-adults, 284 adults and four giants crocodiles measuring more than 20 feet," said Dr Kar.
Seven years back, the Guinness Book on World Record recorded a 23-foot long salt-water crocodile - the world’s largest crocodile - in Bhitarkanika.
In 1975, Ministry of Forest and Environment in a collaboration with UNDP had started a crocodile breeding and rearing project in Dangamala within Bhitarkanika park.
Thanks to the success of the project, the crocodile population started increasing in the creeks, river and other water bodies of the park and its nearby areas, said the forest officer.