Crocs trained to hunt poachers
Indian authorities are releasing dozens of crocodiles bred in captivity to scare away poachers and protect their endangered counterparts.
They say illegal fishing in mangrove forests and habitat destruction in the states of Orissa and West Bengal, in eastern India, has led to a steep fall in crocodile numbers, from several thousand a century ago to less than 100 in the early 1970s.
But senior wildlife official and crocodile breeding expert Rathin Banerjee says the same reptiles are breeding rapidly in captivity. Orissa’s Bhitarkanika sanctuary has more than 1,400 crocodiles.
“The swelling number of released crocodiles in the wild is working as a deterrent and keeping people away from the mangrove, as villagers are more cautious before venturing into the forests,” Mr Banerjee said.
Wildlife sanctuaries in the region are threatened by poachers and villagers foraging for wood and forest produce.
But Mr Banerjee says large crocodiles leaping out of the water to attack prey or capsize boats and canoes are proving to be a good weapon.
“Unlike guard dogs, crocodiles cannot be tamed and are ferocious and can attack anyone in the swamps,” he said.
Last year, a seven-metres estuarine crocodile in Bhitarkanika entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest.