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Forest dept to release 55 crocodiles in Sunderbans

Kolkata: The state Forest department released 5 sub adult crocodiles in the core area of the Sunderbans after successful breeding in estuarine water at Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project at Bakkhali under the Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve (SBR) area on Thursday. 55 crocodiles that includes 40 male and 15 females will be released in phases at Ramganga Range, under Chulkathi block in South 24-Parganas

and in the core area of the Sunderbans.

The saltwater crocodiles have been marked by numbering in their scute rows for monitoring through direct sighting by the patrolling team of the Forest department. "This will also help to know the success rate of releasing and also territory and distribution of the species in Sunderbans," an official said.

The breeding programme of saltwater crocodiles had started in Bhagabatpur in 1976 to increase the population of the species. Now, the site has 6 breeding pools and 14 enclosures containing water tanks for keeping hatchlings of different age groups. So far, 629 crocodiles have been released in Sunderbans.

The conservation breeding programme has been instrumental in maintaining a viable population of the species through release of hatchling into the wild, increasing the success rate of hatching and maintaining the male and female ratio for a better and sustainable population.

The last census of saltwater crocodiles in the Sunderbans recorded 240 animals (141 direct sightings and 99 indirect sightings).

"Due to climate change and increasing habitat destruction, the coastal areas where saltwater crocodiles normally breed are decreasing which may affect their population in near future," an official added.

The aim of the conservation breeding programme is to conserve the genetic diversity of the species and restock or reintroduce the species to re-establish a self-sustaining population in its natural habitat. The animal is released in the rivers of the

Sunderbans after it attains four years of age.

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