Context: The Odisha government has decided to compensate fishermen for the loss or damage of nets if gharials get entangled during fishing in the Mahanadi river.
- For close to five decades, the Odisha government has been involved in the conservation of three crocodile species by establishing 3 rearing centres — Tikarpada for gharial in Angul, Ramatirtha for muggers in Mayurbhanj and Bhitarkanika for saltwater crocodile in Kendrapara district.
- Odisha is the only state in India having all three species of crocodiles (Gharial, mugger and saltwater crocodile) found in nature.
- There are three species of crocodilians—saltwater (least concern), Mugger (vulnerable) and Gharial (Critically Endangered)
- It is the largest of all living reptiles.
- It listed as least concern by IUCN.
- It is found throughout the east coast of India.
- Unlike other crocodiles, estuarine crocodiles lay eggs by creating a mound made of leaves of a particular mangrove species, which are plentifully available in Bhitarkanika National Park (which is also the second largest mangrove ecosystem in India).
- Other crocodile species dig the soil for laying eggs.
- Mugger Crocodile is a medium-sized crocodile, mainly a freshwater species only found throughout the Indian subcontinent.
- The mugger are ambush hunters that mostly inhabits freshwater lakes,rivers, marsh and swamps forest of India.
- The Mugger Crocodiles are the India’s most commonly seen river predators.
- It is the most uniquely evolved crocodilian in the world, a specialized, river-dwelling, fish-eater reptile.
- Habitat: Clean rivers with sand banks.
- Status: Listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and as Critically Endangered on IUCN Red List
- Distribution: Only viable population is in the National Chambal Sanctuary, spread across three states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in India.
- Small non-breeding populations exist in Son, Gandak, Hoogly and Ghagra rivers.
- Gharials, which were abundant in the main rivers and tributaries of the Indus, Ganga, Brahmaputra and Mahanadi-Brahmani, are now limited to only 14 widely spaced and restricted locations in India and Nepal.
- Now extinct in Myanmar, Pakistan, Bhutan.
- Presently, the wild populations of gharials can only be found in Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
National Chambal Sanctuary
- It is listed as an important bird area (IBA) and is a proposed Ramsar site.
- National Chambal Sanctuary supports the largest population of Gharials in the wild.
- National Chambal Sanctuary is the only known place where nesting of Indian Skimmers is recorded in large numbers (although a new breeding site was discovered in Odisha, India, in 2016).
Bhitarkanika National park
- It is a protected wetland under the Ramsar Convention.
- It is said to house 70% of India’s estuarine or saltwater crocodiles.
- The Bhitarkanika National Park is a place where the rivers Brahmani, Baitarni, Dhamra and Pathsala meet the Bay of Bengal.
- It hosts a large number of mangrove species and is the second-largest mangrove ecosystem in India.
- Gahirmatha Beach and Marine Sanctuary lie in this park.