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Co-existing peacefully with crocodiles

Placid waters: A herd of cattle grazes peacefully along the shores of Ghodahada reservoir in Ganjam district without any fear of attack from the numerous crocodile that live there. —

Placid waters: A herd of cattle grazes peacefully along the shores of Ghodahada reservoir in Ganjam district without any fear of attack from the numerous crocodile that live there. —   | Photo Credit: Photo: Lingaraj Panda

Sib Kumar Das

Number of crocodiles in Ghodahada reservoir has increased in recent times

GHODAHADA: Cows and calves graze fearlessly on the meadows adjoining the Ghodahada reservoir and people bath on its banks although large crocodiles up to 13 feet in length inhabit the water body.

At a distance these crocodiles are seen to be basking in the sun. But they have till date never attacked the domestic animals or humans living in villages around the reservoir. Only about a year back the forest officials came up with documental evidence regarding the existence of crocodiles in this medium irrigation reservoir on the border of Ganjam and Gajapati districts. But the families living near the reservoir since more than three decades have peacefully coexisted with the crocodiles.

“When the wild animals as well as humans living in the area are satisfied with the resources provided by the environment, peaceful coexistence can occur between them and Ghodahada is an example of this,” said A.K. Jena, the Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO). No crocodile had till date attacked or injured any human or domestic animal although they at times damage the nets of fishermen to steal their fish catch. No fisherman had ever attacked the crocodiles. All this continued for decades around the reservoir. As per the recent continuing enumeration there are around 50 mature and large crocodiles in the reservoir which range upto 13 feet in length. There also plenty of small crocodiles of three to four feet length. More than 20 large tunnels on the banks of the reservoir are used by the crocodile for breeding and nesting.

Although crocodiles can be seen in and around the reservoir the reptiles prefer to avoid the humans and their pets. Simanchal Behera, a fisherman of the area said abundance of fish in the reservoir may be the reason behind this peaceful coexistence. This reservoir is used for pisciculture by a cooperative of around 70 fishermen families of the area. Here fish grow up to weight of seven to eight kilograms.

No interferance

The efforts of fishermen have also kept the crocodiles satisfied and as gratitude they never interfere into the life of humans and their domestic animals living on the banks of the reservoir. But their small nuance is that the lazy crocodiles prefer to snatch fishes caught in fishermen’s nets rather than chasing them out in water. This damages the nets but it is small loss in comparison to the unique peaceful coexistence that exists in the area, said Gopinath Behera another fisherman of the area.

The Forest Department has decided to help out the cooperative of fishermen in their efforts of pisciculture in the reservoir to keep alive this unique ecosystem where humans and domestic animals coexist with crocodiles. The fishermen have also formed an organisation Maa Ram Chandi Crocodile Protection Committee (MRCPC) to streamline their efforts for environmental protection.

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