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Odisha district only place in India with all 3 crocodile species

Context:

With the sighting of mugger and gharial crocodiles, all three species of crocodiles have been found in the river systems of the Odisha’s Kendrapara district.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Species in News, Conservation of Ecology and Biodiversity)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Crocodile Species Found in India
  2. About the recent Gharial sightings in Odisha
  3. Bhitarkanika National Park

Crocodile Species Found in India

I- Marsh Crocodile/Mugger

  • Restricted to the Indian subcontinent, Mugger or Marsh crocodiles are generally found in freshwater habitats including lakes, marshes and rivers. They may also be found in coastal saltwater lagoons and estuaries.
  • They are listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List. They are also Listed in the Appendix I of CITES and Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • They are an egg-laying and hole-nesting species which preys on fish, reptiles, birds and mammals.
  • The main cause of their vulnerable status is habitat destruction, fragmentation, and transformation, fishing activities and use of crocodile parts for medicinal purposes.
  • This species of crocodile are already extinct in Myanmar and Bhutan. 

II- Saltwater Crocodile

  • The saltwater crocodiles, also known as the estuarine crocodile, are believed to be the largest crocodile species living on Earth.
  • They are listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List. They are also Listed in the Appendix I of CITES and Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • In India, it inhabits Odisha’s Bhitarkanika National Park, the Sundarbans in West Bengal and the Andamans and Nicobar Islands. They can also be found across Southeast Asia and northern Australia.
  • It is capable of prevailing over almost any animal that enters its territory and ambushes most of its prey and then drowns or swallows it as a whole.
  • Its reputation as a man-eater is one of the biggest reasons for its hunting and a threat to its existence. It is also hunted for its skin and another major cause of its decorating population is loss of habitat.

III- Gharial

  • The gharial, also known as the gavial is the longest of all living crocodilians and they have long and thin snouts which resemble an earthen pot (known as “Ghara” in Hindi”), and thus, are called gharial,
  • They are listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List. They are also Listed in the Appendix I of CITES and Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • It currently inhabits rivers in the plains of the northern part of the Indian subcontinent and the Chambal river in the northern slopes of the Vindhya mountains is known as the primary habitat of gharials.
  • The main causes of this decline include illegal sand mining, poaching, habitat destruction, floods and massive scale fishing operations.

About the recent Gharial sightings in Odisha

  • Odisha’s Kendrapara district, crisscrossed by rivers, creeks and water inlets, has earned the distinction of being the only district in India where all three species of crocodiles – salt-water, gharial and mugger are found.
  • The district has already claimed fame for its successful conservation programme for salt-water or estuarine crocodiles at the Bhitarkanika National Park.
  • The Bhitarkanika National Park having over 1700 estuarine crocodiles, is home to 70 per cent of India’s such crocodiles, the conservation of which was started way back in 1975.
  • The Bhitarkanika river systems are home to salt water crocodiles, while the Mahanadi and Brahmani rivers and their tributaries that pass through the district are inhabited by muggers and gharials.
  • With the sighting of mugger and gharial crocodiles, all three species of crocodiles have been found in the river systems of the district.

Bhitarkanika National Park

  • Bhitarkanika National Park is one of Odisha’s finest biodiversity hotspots and is famous for its mangroves, migratory birds, turtles, estuarine crocodiles, and countless creeks.
  • The wetland is represented by 3 Protected Areas, the Bhitarkanika National Park, the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary and the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary.
  • Bhitarkanika is located in the estuary of Brahmani, Baitarani, Dhamra, and Mahanadi river systems.
  • It is said to house 70% of the country’s estuarine or saltwater crocodiles, conservation of which was started way back in 1975.

-Source: Livemint

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