Wildlife Conservation Efforts

World Crocodile Day 2024: In 50th year of India’s saurian conservation 


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: IUCN Status of Crocodiles of India

Mains level: Crocodile Conservation Project

Why in the news?

The successful Crocodile Conservation Project in Bhitarkanika National Park is escalating the human-crocodile conflicts affecting local communities.

About the Crocodile Conservation Project

  • Launch and Objective: The Crocodile Conservation Project was launched in 1975 in Bhitarkanika National Park, Odisha. The main objective was to protect the crocodiles’ natural habitat and revive the population through captive breeding due to the low survival rate of hatchlings in nature.
  • Historical Context: Initiated barely three years after the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. The project was launched due to the threat of extinction from indiscriminate killing for commercial purposes and severe habitat loss.
  • Implementation and Success: Centers for breeding and rearing saltwater crocodiles, muggers, and gharials were started in 34 locations across various states in India under the guidance of HR Bustard. The project in Bhitarkanika, started by Sudhakar Kar and HR Bustard, has been the most successful, increasing the population from 95 in 1975 to 1,811 in the latest reptile census.
  • Ongoing Efforts: Sudhakar Kar continues to provide technical expertise and methodology for the annual census of saltwater crocodiles even after retirement. Conservation of crocodiles is described as a lifelong mission by Kar.

IUCN Status of Crocodiles of India

  • The three crocodiles of India, the Saltwater Crocodile, Mugger Crocodile, and Gharial, are listed as Least Concern, Vulnerable, and Critically Endangered respectively on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Bhitarkanika National Park 

  • Bhitarkanika National Park is a 145 km² (56 sq mi) protected area in Odisha, eastern India. It was designated as a national park in 1998 and obtained the status of a Ramsar site in 2002.
  • The park is known for its unique mangrove ecosystem, which is the second largest in India. It is home to a variety of flora and fauna, including the endangered saltwater crocodile, Indian python, king cobra, black ibis, and darters.

About the Issues Faced by Bhitarkanika

  • Human-Crocodile Conflict: The increasing crocodile population has led to rising human-crocodile conflicts. Sudhakar Kar expressed concern over the conflicts, warning locals to avoid entering rivers, creeks, and waterbodies inhabited by estuarine crocodiles.
  • Impact on Local Communities: Conflicts have led to 50 deaths since 2014. Local villagers have criticized politicians for not addressing the safety issues adequately, affecting political outcomes.
  • Preventive Measures: Forest officials have erected barricades around 120 river ghats in and around Bhitarkanika to prevent crocodile attacks on humans.
  • Political Implications: The human-crocodile conflict has influenced local political dynamics, with villagers expressing dissatisfaction with incumbents over safety concerns related to crocodile attacks.

Conclusion: Construct and maintain more robust protective barriers around water bodies, such as reinforced barricades and secure river ghats. Additionally, create safe, designated areas for water-related activities to minimize the risk of crocodile attacks.

Mains PYQ:

Q How does biodiversity vary in India? How is the Biological Diversity Act,2002 helpful in the conservation of flora and fauna? (UPSC IAS/2018)

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