Sundarban Tiger Reserve, West Bengal

Sundarban Tiger Reserve

Saltwater Crocodile


Saltwater crocodile is one of the important species and the apex predator of estuarine ecosystem, not only it takes fresh fleshy foods but also it takes rotten carcass of the animal and thereby helps to clear the river water.

Habitat:

The reptile inhabits coastal brackish mangroves and river deltas of Sundarbans. Often, the crocodiles are seen in the mudflats while basking in the sun.

Threat:

  • The saltwater crocodile is often hunted for meat and eggs and its skin is the most commercially valuable item.
  • Climate change and habitat destruction in the coastal areas where the animals breed affect the population.
  • Changes in the water quality due to pollution is one of the major threats for the species.

Nesting:

Females selects the nesting sites and both the partners defend the nesting territory. Nesting site is typically a stretch of shore along tidal rivers and swamps. Nests are open in exposed location, often in mudflats, sometimes covered with vegetation. It is evident that female saltwater crocodile scratches a layer of leaves and other debris around the nest entrance for protecting the eggs.

Breeding season:

Saltwater crocodiles mate in the wet season, when levels of water is highest. The courtship starts in the months of September – October. Female lays eggs between November to March.

Ex-situ conservation programme:

The aim of the conservation breeding programme is to conserve the gene pool of the species, restock, and reintroduce the species to re-establish a self- sustaining population in its natural habitat. The breeding programme of the salt water crocodiles had started (in 1976) at Bhagabatpur in Sundarban to increase the population.

Achievements:

The state forest dept released 5 sub- adult crocodiles in the core area of the Sundarbans after successful breeding. 55 crocodiles will be released in phases at Ramganga Range in the core areas of the Sundarban.
Note- The crocodiles have been marked by numbering in their scutes rows for monitoring through direct sightings by the patrolling team of the forest dept. Now the site has 6 breeding pools and 14 enclosures containing water tanks for keeping hatchlings of different age group.

2020-21 Saltwater Crocodile Estimation

Year of Census(Latest) Male Female Sex unidentified Hatchlings Total
2020-21 - - 144 26* 144
Note: *hatchlings are not included in the population estimation.
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