KENDRAPARA: Sixty-five but fighting fit to thwart an eight feet of reptile ferocity. That is what Ahalya Parida is. A day after she hit back at a crocodile trying to drag her into the river water around Bhitarkanika National Park, Ahalya has lived to tell the tale.“I was shocked when the crocodile suddenly appeared from the water and held onto my legs while I was washing utensils at the river ghat,” remembers the native of Chatrabandi village in Kendrapara district while undergoing treatment in the Community Health Center at Mahakalapada.
She started shouting but instead of waiting for any help, she pricked the eyes of the young crocodile. Hurt, the reptile loosened its grip allowing her to escape from its jaws, as well as that of sure death. Ahalya fought bravely to save her life but was shifted to a private hospital in Bhubaneswar for her treatment as her condition was serious. She sure has become talk of the riverside villages for her valiant fight but the incident has sent shockwaves as four persons have already been killed in crocodile attacks within three months around the park.
Villagers are wary because crocodiles swarm the rivers, creeks and water bodies in Aul, Rajkanika, Mahakalapada and Rajnagar blocks of Kendrapada district and even in Chandabali block in Bhadrak district away from the main park. Crocodiles have also killed several cattle, goats and sheep in these areas. “Crocodiles are a big problem. Nobody can even dare take a bath in the river; not even the animals,” said Arabinda Mandal, former sarpanch of Jamboo panchayat.
Strangely, the exact figures on crocodile attacks are unavailable with the Forest department but locals believe that at least six to ten persons are killed or maimed by the reptiles each year. “Most cases are not reported, people just go missing,” said Narayan Behera of Dangamal village, one of the worst hit areas by crocodile attacks.
“We have warned riverside villagers not to enter into the rivers, creeks and water bodies of Bhitarkanika. To prevent human-crocodile conflict in the recent breeding season, the Forest department barricaded around 30 river ghats and cautioned villagers not to go beyond the barricaded areas,” said JD Pati, Divisional Forest Officer of Rajnagar Mangrove Division.There are 1768 estuarine crocodiles as per the reptile census report of this year.