BHITARKANIKA, India -- The Bhitarkanika Park on the Orissa coast has achieved the rare distinction of housing the world's largest salt water crocodile measuring about 23 feet.
What has delighted the wildlife lovers and wildlife officials in the state is that the largest crocodile of Bhitarkanika has again found a place in the 2006 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.
Orissa chief wildlife warden S C Mohanty confirmed that the creeks inside the park are home to some of the world`s largest salt water crocodiles.
During 1994 also, the Guinness book of world record had maintained that Bhitarkanika has the largest living crocodile in the world.
The latest census carried out by the wildlife division indicated that the Bhitarkanika sanctuary has a total strength of 1462 crocodiles which included 203 adults.
According to crocodile experts and senior research officer in the wildlife division Sudhakar Kar, nearly eight salt water crocodiles in Bhitarkanika have the length of 16 to 18 feet while five were reportedly having a length of 18 to 20 feet and three crocodiles measured above 20 feet.
Bhitarkanika has also emerged as the ideal habitat for the salt water crocodile in the country and also the largest concentration. Though Sundarbans sanctuary has a good mangrove forest, yet it houses a very small population of the salt water crocodiles. So is the case of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Dr Kar said that the Dangmal Interpretation Centre located inside the Bhitarkanika Park has preserved the full skeleton of a 19 feet 8 inch long crocodile found dead last year.
The crocodile was initially cremated but later the wildlife officials retrieved the skeleton and decided to preserve it to make the people aware that the park is home to some of the largest salt water crocodiles of the world.
Wildlife experts, however, argued that the largest crocodile so far found in the Bhitarkanika was almost 25-foot-long which could be traced from the skull preserved by the Kanika Royal Family.
The crocodile, probably was shot dead near Dhamara during 1926 and later its skull was preserved by the then Kanika King. The crocodile experts said as per the parameters, the crocodile would be about 25 feet since the size of the skull was measured one seventh of the total length of the body.
The Bombay Natural History Society (BHNS) and the Orissa Wildlife Division have approached the Kanika Royal Family to hand over the skull of the largest crocodile for preservation but in vain. The Royal Family in possession of the skull of the largest crocodile in the world, refused to part it.
Wildlife experts said besides the largest living crocodile, the Bhitarkanika has another distinction of having rare and endangered white crocodiles numbering about ten in the wild. This apart, the Dangmal Crocodile Research Centre also has a rare white crocodil named 'Gori' in captivity for over last two decades.
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