The population of the mugger crocodile increased by four at the Ghodahada reservoir and its adjoining water bodies in Odisha’s Ganjam district, an official said on Wednesday.
Improvement of the habitats in the water bodies and protection to the animal by locals can be the main reasons behind the increase over the past three years, Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Amlan Nayak said.
The number of the muggers in and around the irrigation reservoir was counted at 76 in the census, which was conducted recently by the Forest Department through the direct-sight method, Nayak said.
Fifty-eight muggers were found in around the 5-sq-km reservoir, while 18 others were detected in the nearby 10 water bodies near Digapahandi, 190 km south of Bhubaneswar, the official said.
Last year, the reptile’s population was 72, including 53 in Ghodahada reservoir and 19 in the ponds. The count was 65 in 2020.
The Ghodahada reservoir is considered as one of the potential habitats for the muggers in the state after Satkosia and Similipal.
Mugger is one of the three crocodile species found in the state. The others are the gharial and the saltwater crocodiles.
It is designated as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species and under Schedule I of the country’s Wildlife Protection Act.
Forest officials claimed that they did not detect any mugger deaths in the area in the last two years, while they had rescued the reptile from various areas nearby.
Fisherfolk of the area consider the sight of the mugger in the water bodies a harbinger for them and, therefore, they do not do any harm.
Forest officials are spreading awareness among the locals for co-existence, the DFO said. “We also have a proposal to make an eco-tourism project in the area.