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Saturday, May 26, 2001

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People trap crocodile at Neyyar

By Our Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, MAY 25. A crocodile measuring 3.35 m and weighing 200 kg, which had been attacking the local residents around Neyyar dam reservoir, was trapped by the Eco Development Committee (EDC) activists early this morning.

The mugger was trapped when it came to feed on the meat kept by the members of the EDC, constituted by forest department to tackle the crocodile menace with public participation, on the banks of the reservoir at Karimamkulam, Vettimoodu, Chemburu.

The crocodile was spotted around midnight and it continued to avoid the 120 m-long and six m deep three-layer entangled net till 3 a.m. When it got trapped, it tried to escape and the five members had a tough task for the next six hours as it tore the net and tried to return to the reservoir.

Finally, by 9 a.m the team leader, Mr. Satyadas, Mr. Nelson and assisted by the committee members, Mr. Krishnan Nair, Mr. Joy and Mr. Sreekumar and the forest guard, Mr. Ramaswamy Ayappan, managed to bundle the mugger and brought it to the bank of the reservoir. Hundreds of residents in the locality arrived at the bank to see the trapped crocodile and often it turned violent.

Later by around 1 p.m. after the forest officials prepared a mahasar, nearly 50 people carried the crocodile to the top of the hillock to transport it to the crocodile farm. "The captured crocodile, which is over 30 years old, is being under observation and will be shifted to the crocodile farm tomorrow", the Assistant Wildlife Warden, Mr. J. R. Ani, said.

On January 2 this year, a 57-year-old woman, Rajamma was bitten and drowned to death near Kanchimoodu, Pantha by a crocodile released into the reservoir. On May 16, a KSEB employee, Mr. P. T. Surendran, was attacked and seriously injured at Mayam, Puravimala. The incidents had exposed the lacunae in protective measures for locals who are vulnerable to the crocodile menace.

The EDC swung into action yesterday after the efforts of the forest department to capture the crocodiles that attacked the locals failed. Since May 16, the muggers were evading the entangled nets laid by the forest authorities in the reservoir.

"We will continue to keep vigil to trap the other 10 crocodiles identified as "notorious" and believed to be moving around Kanchimoodu, Chemburu, Mayom, Thuripara, Karimamkulam and Marakunnam", according to the EDC president, Mr. M. A. Lathif.

Apart from providing Rs. 4,000 for each of the captured live crocodile, the forest department has provided two row boats, entangled nets, torch lights and ropes to the EDC's yesterday. Of the amount, five per cent will go to core fund of the EDC and the rest will be shared by the five members. But, the amount paid by the department is meager as the job involves risking ones life.

All the crocodiles should be caught as they are potential threat to residents living along the banks of the reservoir. The children are the most vulnerable as their parents leave for work in the morning, says Mr. Biju, son of the deceased Rajamma.

Ever since the crocodiles were released into the reservoir in the early 1980's by the Forest department, over a dozen locals were attacked by muggers and many of them had been handicapped.

Over 1200 families residing on the banks of the reservoir are living in panic and constant fear as they never know when the crocodiles will attack them. Locals say that the crocodiles had multiplied manifold over the years. However, the authorities are not in a position to dispute this or to give a correct figure about the crocodile population. Tourists undertaking boating in the reservoir are also prone to attack from the crocodiles.

The locals, who had been depending on the reservoir for drinking water, bathing and washing, had been demanding barbed bathing ghats. The forest department has now decided to install floating bathing ghats on selected areas on experimental basis.

Crocodile palustris more commonly known as mugger or marsh crocodile, which may live up to a century, were released in the reservoir once the crocodile population in the adjacent crocodile farm, established in 1977, multiplied beyond control. The farm was established near the reservoir as part of preserving the species. Hunting crocodiles collectively or destroying crocodile eggs are punishable under Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.

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