Week-long ban on tourist entry at Bhitarkanika National Park

Bhubaneswar: The Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha's Kendrapara district will be out of bounds for tourists for a week in view of for the annual census of estuarine crocodiles.

The forest department has imposed a seven-day ban, starting January 3, to prevent noise pollution during the headcount operation of the reptiles, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) division, BP Acharya, said.

"There will be a prohibition on the entry of visitors to the national park area during this period to ensure smooth and disturbance-free head count operation of saltwater crocodiles," Acharya said.

The objective is to keep the place free from human interference when the meticulous exercise is underway, officials said.

The 145-sqkm Bhitarkanika National Park, located in the delta of rivers Brahmani, Baitarani and Dhamara, is an ideal spot for camping, trekking and picnic. The peak winter is suitable for the counting of the reptiles, the official said, adding that all bookings and entry permits to the national park would stand cancelled during the ban period.

The tourists and nature lovers can visit the park once the week-long ban is lifted, said the DFO.

The head count will be carried out under the supervision of wildlife personnel. The enumerators would look for crocodiles in the Bhitarkanika river system and the innumerable creeks, water inlets and nullahs in the vicinity, they said. During the last census, undertaken in January 2017, forest officials had listed 1,682 crocodiles, up from 1,671 the year before, an official said. The list included 608 hatchlings, 334 yearlings, 266 juveniles, 172 sub adults and 302 adults. Last year, the wildlife enumerators had also spotted about a dozen of highly threatened albino salt-water crocodiles in the Bhitarkanika area, he added. -PTI 

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