India: Crocs Deployed as Forest Guardians

Foresters and wildlife conservators in India have come up with a novel approach to prevent the depletion of sensitive mangrove forests in a remote wildlife sanctuary.

Areas of the southern-most portion of the 400-square-mile Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary are becoming visibly affected by wood-poaching and unlawful cutting, say foresters. According to Express India News, the residents of settlements within the sanctuary jurisdiction are increasingly responsible for destroying mangrove forests and illegally converting the land to green fields and paddies for shrimp cultivation.

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With limited enforcement personnel and resources at their disposal, Orissa forest personnel have enlisted the help of a native species with a historic reputation for, uh, protecting territory, so to speak.

After a trial program last year, forest authorities released nearly 60 captively bred crocodiles last week into the water in Kharinasi, Batighar, Ramnagar and Jamboo areas of the sanctuary.

“We are pressing into service these reptiles for forest conservation,” says Golakh Rout with the Rajnagar Mangrove Forest Division. “Once crocodiles are firmly ensconced in the water inlets, human intrusion would be greatly curtained.”

Who could argue with that reasoning?

“Fear of croc attack would keep the human trespassers away from the water sources,” said Rout. “As the people here take the water route to sneak into the forest, we feel the crocs may come in handy to protect the forest.”

Since naturally occurring crocodile populations in other parts of the sanctuary seemed to be preventing human exploitation to any major degree, why not simply expand the deterrent?

Funding-strapped state game and fish agencies take note. Here at the Newshound, we’ll just bet most state conservation agents could quickly recommend several locations where they would love to enlist the help of some 12-foot-long trespassing deterrents.

Then there’s those pesky personal watercraft riders…