1 May 2019
After tiger, crocodile must be the most sought after visible treat for tourists crisscrossing Sundarban. The image of crocodile sun-bathing at the edge of rivers, especially during winter, is a must in the album of Sundarban regulars. The saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), also known as the estuarine crocodile; Indo-Pacific crocodile; marine crocodile; sea crocodile or informally as saltie, is the largest of all living reptiles, as well as the largest riparian predator in the world. Males of this species can reach sizes up to 7.0 m (23.0 ft) in length but generally remains within a size of 6 m (19.7 ft) weighing 1,000 to 1,200 kg (2,200–2,600 lb). Females are much smaller and do not surpass 3 m (9.8 ft).
As the name implies, this species of crocodile can live in marine environment, but usually resides in saline and brackish mangrove swamps, estuaries, deltas, lagoons and lower stretches of rivers. They have the widest distribution within modern day crocodile species, ranging from the eastern coast of India throughout most of Southeast Asia and northern Australia. Historically, the range covered Southern China as well.
The saltwater crocodile is a large and opportunistic hyper carnivorous predator. Most preys are killed, drowned and then swallowed in whole. It is capable of prevailing over almost any animal that enters its territory, including other mega predators such as sharks, varieties of freshwater and marine fish, invertebrates such as crustaceans, various reptiles, birds and mammals, including humans. Due to their size, aggression and distribution, saltwater crocodiles are regarded as the most dangerous crocodilian to humans, alongside the Nile crocodile.
In India, the saltwater crocodile is found in saline and brackish mangrove swamp forest of Bhitarkanika and Sunderbans. The best time to spot the Sundarban crocodile is in winter when crocodiles often bask on the river banks during daytime. Sundarbans’ crocodiles lay eggs in the month of December-January. They lay eggs by making hole in the sand banks or mud banks inside the forest. Mother crocodile lay twenty to thirty eggs in a season which get hatched after 50-60 day.
Crocodiles can turn killers like the tigers. Killer crocodiles actually wait and watch its prey for a long time until it reaches within the ambit of its attacking range and then attacks with lightning speed.
There is no available current information about the number of crocodiles in Sundarbans. “The estimated number of salt water crocodiles increased from 96 in 1976 to 1,640 in 2012 in India due to the rear and release programme established under the Indian Crocodile Conservation Project” reads a research paper titled Human-Crocodile conflict in South Asia and Iran authored by four researchers including conservation biologist Tharun Nair of India. The Bhagbatpur crocodile project is an important tourist center of the Indian Sundarban. It is the only crocodile project in West Bengal, which is located near the Lothian Island and the Saptamukhani River estuary.
Crocodile plays a significant role in the wildlife of the Sundarbans, which attracts tourists’ attention by making the journey more adventurous. Travelers can observe them from the boat. Crocodiles are everywhere in the Sundarbans but they can be easily seen in some places like Nandabala canal, Pashur river, Sheela-Gang, Jhangra-canal, Shafla-canal, Bhadra-Gang, Moravola river, Pathuria Gang, Bhagbatpur & Sajnekhali range.