Over 3,000 estuarine crocodile hatchlings have emerged out of eggshells to make their way to water-bodies in and around Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha's Kendrapara district, marking the culmination of annual breeding and nesting season of these reptiles.
The sight of baby crocs breaking out of eggshells and their act of loitering aimlessly before hopping into the water-bodies and creeks was a visual treat to watch.
Ground-level staff engaged in maintaining watch and vigil of the nests were witness to the rare natural phenomenon.
The fledgling crocs emerged from the shells sans mothers.
However, the forest personnel maintained safe distance from the nests as human interference turns the reptiles violent and aggressive.
As many as 68 croc nests were sighted in the wild by the enumerators this year while 56 nests had been spotted last year and rise in number shows better conservation measures by forest department, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Division, Kedar Kumar Swain said.
Female crocodiles lay 50 to 60 eggs and the hatchlings usually emerge from the nests after 70 to 80 days of incubation period, he said adding hardly one out of every hundred baby crocs grows to become adults as their mortality rate is high. In the wild, babies are devoured by predating aquatic animals, observed reptile researcher, Sudhakar Kar.
The release of these hatched reptiles has been going on since 1975, funded by the United National Development Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The conservation project undertaken in Bhitarkanika tasted success while a similar UNDP-funded 'gharial croc' conservation project launched simultaneously in Angul district's Tikarpada Sanctuary was a failure.