At least 6 reptiles rescued since 2007; experts say more such incidents on anvil

Over the last six years or so, residents of Nedunkundram and Sadanandapuram, areas close to the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur, have had to contend with not just stray dogs and cats, but crocodiles.

With two large waterbodies in these villages rapidly drying up, crocodiles are often spotted on dry lake beds, and panicked residents have rushed to zoo officials for help.

“In summer, we often spot crocodiles moving from dry beds to parts of the lake that have water. Sometimes, before we can alert anybody, the crocodiles disappear into the thick forests near the lake,” said S. Arumugam, president, Nedunkundram panchayat.    

On Tuesday, a farmer found a three-year-old marsh crocodile on the dry bed of Nedunkundram Lake. Forest officials later took it to the zoo. Officials say this is the second such incident since February 2011, when another three-year-old female crocodile was spotted by residents on the bed, and then caught in a fishing net by forest officials to transport it.

Wildlife experts say there may be more such incidents, as there are crocodiles in Sadanandapuram Lake as well, which is drying up. Since 2007, at least half a dozen marsh crocodiles have been rescued from areas adjoining the zoo, said Velachery forest ranger, S. David Raj.

“These areas have several freshwater lakes, and marsh crocodiles thrive here,” he said

But how did these crocodiles get into the lakes?

A forest official said that for many years, none of the eight crocodile enclosures at the zoo was covered.

When crocodiles gave birth in these enclosures, often big birds would swoop down, snatch eggs or baby crocodiles, and fly away. Crocodile eggs weigh only about 50 grams, the official said.

Some of these eggs were dropped into lakes near the zoo, and the crocodiles survived and grew there.

A few years ago, zoo authorities covered the enclosures with nylon nets, but over the course of a few years, even these nets were damaged by birds.

At present, the zoo has 134 crocodiles, including 125 marsh crocodiles. The other species include Nile crocodile, Indian Gharial, South American Caiman and American alligator. 

Interestingly, in 2011, after the three-year-old crocodile was found, a team of forest officials drained the lake to look for others, but found none.

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