Odisha becomes only state to have all three crocodile species 

Around 28 hatchlings of reptile freshwater Ghadials were spotted in the Mahanadi in the Baladamara area towards the end of May. The Reptile freshwater Ghadials are critically endangered species. 

Created On: Jun 22, 2021 15:12 ISTModified On: Jun 22, 2021 15:12 IST
Reptile freshwater Ghadials

Odisha has become the only state to have all three kinds of crocodile species in its Mahanadi River. The three kinds of species include reptile freshwater Ghadials, muggers and saltwater crocodiles.

This comes after as many as 28 hatchlings of reptile freshwater Ghadials were spotted in the Mahanadi in the Baladamara area towards the end of May. 

Reptile freshwater Ghadials are critically endangered species and this is the first time that Odisha has seen natural nesting of the species since they were first introduced in its rivers back in 1975.

Key Highlights 

• The gharial eggs need incubation for about 70 days. The hatchlings stay with mothers for several weeks or months.

• The officials have been monitoring the hatchlings closely with round-the-clock surveillance using drones.

• There are about 50 forest officials from six forest divisions who are monitoring the hatchlings. 

• They are camping close to their habitat and patrol the water bodies and spread awareness across 300-odd villages located close to the river to help preserve the Ghadials.

• The officials would be monitoring the Ghadials till they are in their natural habitat, which is deeper waters.

• All the originally introduced Ghadials, which were introduced in the state over the years, are no longer alive. 

• The state has waited for more than 40 years for the species numbers to grow naturally and for them to lay eggs. 

• The state had introduced 13 more Ghadials over the past three years in the Mahanadi river. 

• However, only eight survived. While two are being tracked by the Forest Department through their radio collars, the other six have moved out of the radar.

About three crocodile species

1. Reptile freshwater Ghadials

• Reptile freshwater Ghadials are different from muggers and they do not harm humans. 

• These crocodiles come to the shallow areas to lay eggs. The hatchlings stay in shallow water during their first year and move to sites with deeper water as they grow.

• Most of the gharials introduced earlier in Odisha were first kept in the Nandankanan zoo before being released into the river.

• The habitats of Ghadials are under threat due to fishing and encroachment. 

• They often get caught in the fishing nets and then either they are killed or have their snouts cut off. 

• These species are also weaker than saltwater crocodiles and muggers and don't survive a fight between them.

• The Gharials are among the longest of all living crocodile species. They are also known as fish-eating species. They are well adapted to catching fish due to their long and thin snout and 110 sharp, interlocking teeth.

• They have been listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2007. They have also been granted full protection by law and listed in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

2. Saltwater crocodiles

• The saltwater crocodile species are native to saltwater habitats and brackish wetlands from India's east coast across Southeast Asia. 

• They have been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 1996.

• The crocodiles were hunted for their skin up to the 1970s and are threatened by illegal killing and habitat loss. 

• They are the largest living reptile and crocodile species known to science and are regarded as dangerous for people who share the same environment.

• The crocodile species is capable of prevailing over any animal that enters its territory, including other predators such as sharks and varieties of freshwater and saltwater fish, reptiles, birds and mammals including humans. 

3. Muggers 

• The mugger crocodile is a medium-sized broad-snouted crocodile, which is native to freshwater habitats.

• It inhabits marshes, lakes, rivers and artificial ponds and can also walk on land in search of suitable water bodies during the summer season. 

• The muggers dig burrows to which they retreat when the temperature drops below 5 °C or exceeds 38 °C.

• Females dig holes in the sand as nesting sites and can lay up to 46 eggs during the dry season. The gender of the hatchlings depends on the temperature during incubation. 

• The young are protected by both the parents for up to one year. 

• The young ones feed on insects, while the adults prey on fish, birds, reptiles and mammals.

• The species has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1982. They are also threatened by the conversion of natural habitats and often get entangled in fishing nets.

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