The population of the mugger, an endangered crocodile species in Ghodahada irrigation reservoir and adjoining water bodies near Digapahandi in Ganjam district, has decreased, according to a senior Forest department officer. The number of muggers in and around the reservoir was pegged at 45, including 25 adults, 17 sub-adults and 3 juveniles. This was revealed by the day-long mugger census held on Monday, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Berhampur, Asish Kumar Behera, said. While 28 muggers were found in the five square kilometre reservoir, the rest were spotted in the surrounding water bodies, he said. The mugger population in the reservoir had remained stagnant at 55 for the past two years.
In 2015, they were numbered at 49. Officials said 39 muggers had been spotted in the reservoir area last year and 16, in the nearby water bodies. In 2016, 44 and 11 muggers had been spotted in the reservoir and outside it, respectively, they added. "It is possible that some muggers could have escaped being counted in the annual enumeration as the reservoir was full of water," said the DFO. He said another census would be held within the next three months, after the water level decreased. Mugger is one of the three crocodile species found in Odisha. The others are the gharial and the salt-water or estuarine crocodile. The DFO, however, ruled out fishing in the reservoir as a cause of the reduction in mugger numbers. "There was no report of any crocodile dying in the reservoir last year," Behera said. The muggers in Ghodahada can swim safely as local fishermen, who use the water body, do not harm the endangered animals.