The Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project in Sunderbans was in news in January 2015. It was in news because it got a fresh start with the help of renowned experts in herpetology who introduced global best practices in crocodile conservation.
The project was started in mid-1970s with an aim to increase the number of saltwater crocodiles, a Schedule-I species under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The project is situated next to the uninhabited Lothian Island, far from the mainland in the Sunderbans archipelago.
Why expert assistance was needed?
In past few years, the project did not see a significant increase in the number of salt-water crocodiles. The eggs to hatching ratio also declined to 40 per 100 eggs collected. This decline in hatching ratio raised questions over their future.
The reason for the decline in eggs to hatching ratio was supported with increase in temperature caused by the global warming. This in turn created a challenge in maintaining sex ratio of crocodiles.
Thus it called for expert assistance to give a fresh start to the project.
Expertise provided by experts to boost the project
The forest officials of the Sunderbans delta were provided inputs by the experts, which included among others
• How to collect crocodile eggs
• How to distinguish between fertile and infertile eggs
• How to create the ideal hatching environment using mother nest substrate and artificial substrate
Apart from this, the experts also trained the forest officials on field training. The process of training started in December 2013 and continued for a year.
The inputs and training provided by the experts helped in raising the eggs to hatching ratio, which is now over 70 from previous 40. Also in the last one year, nearly 75 sub-adult crocodiles in the Sunderbans have been released. Out of this at least 50 crocodiles have been tagged to keep a check on their condition in the wild.
The saltwater crocodile (scientific name Crocodylus porosus) is estuarine crocodile has been kept under least concern category of IUCN. It is the largest of all living reptiles, as well as the largest terrestrial and riparian predator in the world.
These crocodiles are found in India, Bangladesh, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu and Vietnam. It is believed that the animal has possibly extinct from Thailand, while has regionally extinct in Singapore.
Where: in Sunderbans