Wildlife personnel in Bhitarkanika National Park, an internationally acclaimed wetland site in Odisha, have spotted 68 nesting sites of estuarine crocodiles even as the annual breeding ritual of these reptiles has reached its peak stage.
While 66 nesting sites were spotted within the core area of Bhitarkanika National Park, two sites were found along Mahanadi deltaic region under Mahakalpada forest range outside the Park territory.
Last year 66 nesting sites of estuarine crocodiles had been spotted.
The number of nesting sites may further go up in coming days as breeding phenomenon is picking pace, said forest officials.
The nests were sighted by wildlife enumerators of the forest department along the innumerable nullahs, creeks and water-inlets in the Bhitarkanika river system, an ideal habitat for saltwater crocodiles.
Forest officials are hopeful of sighting more nesting sites this time.
Female crocodiles lay 50 to 60 eggs and the hatchlings usually emerge from the nests after 70-80 days of incubation period, forest officials said, adding due care has been taken this time by wildlife staff as eggs are devoured by predators like snakes, jackals and dogs, found in the reserve.
Adequate measures by the state forest department have led to a systematic rise in the number of these reptiles over the years, claimed officials.
The number of salt water crocodiles, which are not found in any other river system in Odisha, as per the latest census,in Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary stood at 1644.