KENDRAPARA, India -- The skull of an estuarine crocodile, the country's largest, preserved at a miniature museum at Orissa's Kendrapara district continues to attract reptile researchers.
Shibendu Narayan Bhanjadeo, the scion of erstwhile Kanika Zamindari that ruled the river-locked Rajkanika region for over a century, said that the 76-year-old crocodile skull is the most precious possession of the museum run by a trust.
Noted crocodile experts, including Romalous Whitekar, have certified that the preserved skull is the country's largest one. In fact, a bigger crocodile skull was at Bhopal, but now it has been damaged due to unscientific preservation, he said.
Bhanjadeo possesses other wildlife trophies that include two skulls of male elephants.
"I am very much aware that we cannot keep wildlife skulls at home. It is an offence under the Wildlife Protection Act. That is why part of my ancestral palace has been converted into a miniature museum and the last vestige of royal clan has been preserved with utmost care," he quipped.
The state forest department has granted permission for the purpose. They also make periodic inspection of the preserved articles.
Whitekar, the researcher from Chennai, had visited the museum three years back. Under his instructions, the one-metre-long skull has been preserved by latest chemical treatment technique to keep the trophy intact.
Reminiscing the past, Bhanjadeo, who spends a lot each year for museum maintenance, said that his great grand father Shailendra Narayan Bhanjadeo had shot down the croc way back in 1932.
"Since then, it finds a pride of place in our palace," he said.
The rouge male croc had killed as many as 26 persons, mostly women, before it was finally killed by my great grand father, who was a skilled hunter. The locals say that the then king had done a service to the people by killing the the crocodile that had wrought havoc then.
The royal scion has no immediate plan for handing over his prized possession to the state museum.
"The state government has accorded me legal authorisation to keep in custody the animal's skeletal remains. How can I give away these things linked with the cherished memory of my forefathers?" he asked.
A decade back, the palace had been burgled. But, the croc skull was spared by burglars, who had decamped with a couple of valuable ivories, he said.
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