After remaining out of bounds for tourists for three months, Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha reopened on Tuesday. The park was closed for the annual census of estuarine crocodiles from May 1 to July 31. The park will allow day visitors and night stay in cottages and guest houses, said Sudarshan Gopinath Yadav, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division. Tourists and visitors intending to visit Bhitarkanika should log on to www.ecotourodisha.com for bookings, the official said.
Attracting tourists from across India and abroad, the forest department has rest house facilities in Dangamala, Agaranasi, Habalikothi, Gupti and Eakakula, he said. A strict ban has been imposed on the use of plastic disposables in protected areas and advised tourists not to carry polythene and litter plastic bottles and other items in the forest. The green protocol will be strictly implemented, the forest officer added.
The park was shut for three months to ensure disturbance-free annual nesting of crocodiles. The reptiles often turn violent and attack intruders during this period. Boat journeys along the mangrove-covered waterbodies are a major attraction for tourists and on any given day, 350 to 400 visitors make trips by boats.
Bhitarkanika is home to 70% of India’s estuarine crocodile or saltwater crocodiles, conservation of which was started in 1975. According to Bhitarkanika National Park authorities, mammals found in the place are leopard, wild boar, jungle cat, fishing cat, hyena, sambar, striped palm squirrel, and gangetic dolphin while reptiles found comprise turtles including Olive Ridley sea turtle, crocodile, lizard, water monitors, python, and king cobra. Around 166 species of birds have been spotted in the park.
Bhitarkanika is one of the richest storehouses of mangrove genes. Researchers have come across 11 of the 70 mangrove species, which were facing the threat of extinction in the world, in the national park. As per a recent survey, as many as 1793 crocodiles are currently in the National Park.
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