KENDRAPARA: A 65-year-old man of Rajpur village near Bhitarkanika National Park was snatched by a saltwater crocodile and dragged into Brahmani river on Thursday evening. The half-eaten body of Banamali Patra was found on the river bank on Friday morning. The harrowing incident comes 21 days after one Abhaya Rout (62) of the same village was killed by an estuarine crocodile.
Sources said Patra had gone out alone for his evening ablution in a creek of Brahmani river. He was reportedly attacked by a crocodile and dragged underwater. When the elderly man did not return home in the night, his family members and neighbours launched a frantic search but could not trace him. On Friday morning, some villagers found the remains of Patra’s body near the river bank.
Sarpanch of Rajpur gram panchayat Rani Manjari Sethi said the incident has left villagers in a state of shock and mourning. “The population of crocodiles has reached a saturation point in Bhitarkanika. But the forest officials are releasing baby crocodiles into the water bodies from the breeding centre in Dangamal,” Sethi alleged.
The sarpanch also demanded adequate compensation for the family of the crocodile victim. On Friday, Patra’s family members lodged a complaint in Rajnagar police station in this connection. Range officer of the park Chittaranjan Beura said the Forest department will provide Rs 6 lakh compensation to the bereaved family after due inquiry.
The department has erected barricades at around 120 river ghats around Bhitarkanika in Aul, Rajnagar, Rajkanika and Pattamundai blocks to prevent the crocodiles from attacking human beings. Besides, the locals have been advised to take baths within the barricades in rivers. “We have also warned the riverside villagers not to venture into the water bodies which are home to many saltwater crocodiles,” Beura added.
As per this year’s reptile census, Bhitarkanika, a vast tract of forest and saltwater swamp, is home to around 1,793 saltwater crocodiles.