KENDRAPARA: Residents of flood-affected villages in Kendrapara district are reeling under fear after sighting several saltwater crocodiles that have been swept away into their areas following the deluge.Locals of flood-affected Alapua village under Pattamundai block said they sighted a crocodile in the floodwaters near Sasan Upper Primary school on Friday. Bijay Behera, a local, said the reptile was big enough to swallow a human being in one go.
Panic gripped villagers of Santipada, Sidhabali and Baluria after they sighted around five crocodiles in their areas. Similarly, residents of Aul, Rajkanika and Mahakalapada blocks said they had been sighting more crocodiles than usual as the reptiles strayed into their areas from the water bodies of nearby Bhitarkanika national park.“We used to catch fish during floods but the presence of crocodiles is preventing us from venturing into the floodwaters,” said Rajendra Behera, a fisherman of Singhgaon village.
Divisional forest officer of Bhitarkanika national park Sudarshan Gopinath Yadav said fording through floodwaters may be dangerous as crocodiles might be present in these areas. “Villagers of flooded areas have been asked to remain alert as the reptiles might stray into their areas. Crocodiles pushed out of rivers could easily be mistaken for floating debris. The Forest department has been keeping a vigil on the crocodiles roaming in flood-hit areas,” he stated.
The DFO informed that there have been no reports of the crocodiles attacking humans as yet. “The reptiles would return to the rivers after the floodwaters recede. Around 80 river ghats in nearby villages were barricaded to prevent crocodiles from attacking humans but the floodwater washed them away. They would be rebuilt after the situation gets better,” he added.
The reptiles stray into the land in search of food as their traditional feeding grounds are washed away by floods. Marooned people must be vigilant of these reptiles in the floodwaters, urged Hemant Rout, secretary of Gahirmatha Marine Turtles and Mangrove Conservation Society.