Kendrapara/Banatala: The annual census of estuarine or saltwater crocodiles got underway at Bhitarkanika National Park in this district Thursday following which the area has been kept out of bounds for tourists, officials said.
Forest officials, crocodile experts and researchers, will carry out the census till January 14, the officials said.
The objective is to keep the place free from human interference during the headcount and so the park has been closed for visitors, a forest official said.
Apart from the Bhitarkanika river system, water inlets, creeks and nullahs within the national park, the headcount of crocodiles is also being carried out in the areas along the deltaic region of Mahanadi river, the forest official said.
The upstream of Brahmani, Baitarani and Kharasrota river systems have been identified as habitation corridor of estuarine crocodiles, divisional forest officer (DFO) of Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya, said.
The enumerators will also cover these areas during the census, Acharya said. During the last census in January 2018, the forest officials had listed 1,698 crocodiles, the DFO said. The count was 1,682 the year before, the DFO added.
According to a report from Banatala in Angul district, a joint crocodile census was conducted by Mahanadi wildlife, Satkosia, Athamallik and Athagarh divisions in Mahanadi Gorge, Thursday. The two-day exercise will end Friday. Forest officials divided among 13 teams took part in the headcount drive. Each team has three to five officials, it was learnt.