Crocodile City: Rescuing Crocodiles in Vadodara

October 4, 2021 | By Roohi Narula

Vadodara, previously known as Baroda, is a mystical city brimming with heritage and culture. Once under the rule of dynasties, Vadodara has transformed into an industrial metropolis thumping with the rhythm of modern-day life. Expansive land, forts, and palaces have been replaced with tall modern buildings. With the Vishwamitri river gushing through the city, Vadodara is the ideal blend of modernity and tradition. 

Amidst this rapidly changing city, there exist, certain citizens, that remain a permanent part of the cosmopolitan of Vadodara – Mugger Crocodiles. Just like lions are the pride of Gujarat, these crocodiles are considered to be the pride of Vadodara. The Vishwamitri river that flows through Vadodara is home to over 250 crocodiles – the highest number of crocodiles in the state of Gujarat! These Mugger crocodiles have become an intrinsic characteristic of Vadodara, defining life in the city. Yet, the “Pride of Vadodara” has been struggling due to the perils of rapid urbanization and habitat encroachment. 

Representational image of a crocodile

With the river beds of the Vishwamitri river shrinking, mugger crocodiles are forced to move closer to human settlements leading to conflict. Human-crocodile conflict specifically peaks during the monsoon season, with rains flooding the river and forcing these crocodiles to venture out of their natural habitats in search of food and shelter. Traversing the man-made concrete jungle, crocodiles often end up in people’s homes, schools, and buildings!

Wildlife SOS in collaboration with the Gujarat Society for Prevention to Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA) has long been working to mitigate human-crocodile conflict and rescue distressed crocodiles in the area. In the monsoon of 2019, 80 mugger crocodiles were rescued in Vadodara by the Wildlife SOS-GSPCA Rapid Response Unit! 

Crocodile found in Tulsi Wadi Area, Vadodara, in 2019 [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS]

During the Covid- 19 lockdown in 2021, the crocodiles roamed about freely causing no disruption to the lives of humans who remained confined within the four walls of their home. Yet, as life in India resumes, human-crocodile conflict is once again on the rise. 

Crocodile rescued from Khaswadi Cemetry [Photp (c) Wildlife SOS]

Recently, the Wildlife SOS-GSPCA team was called in for an unusual rescue operation of a 3-foot-long mugger crocodile at a cemetery! Staff members of Khaswadi Cemetry in the Kareilibaug area were shocked to see a crocodile perched outside their main office. They immediately contacted the Wildlife SOS-GSPCA helpline (+91-9825011117) running round the clock to rescue animals in distress. The crocodile was meticulously extricated from the location and released back into its natural habitat. 

In another eventful rescue, a crocodile was found in the outskirts of Vadodara sauntering along the backyard of a residence. On arriving, Wildlife SOS- GSPCA volunteers were taken aback to find a juvenile crocodile with a freshwater snake in its mouth! Both the crocodile and the snake were rescued safely and released back into their natural habitat. 

Juvenile crocodile with a fresh water snake in its mouth [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS]

With increasing cases of human-crocodile conflict, an intricate network of informants and volunteers has formed organically.  Over 200 volunteers from throughout the city –  concerned citizens, NGO workers, etc – dedicate their time and efforts into rescuing these crocodiles. Whenever anyone sees a crocodile in Vadodara, whether it may be city folks those living in more rural areas, people know to call the forest department or Wildlife SOS or the various crocodile rescue volunteers! 

In a recent rescue, a 5-foot long crocodile was found in an artificial pond at a construction site near Kalali Talsat Road.  The Wildlife SOS Rapid Response Unit arrived with over ten volunteers to conduct the rescue! The crocodile was submerged in waist-high water that had to be pumped out to safely carry out the rescue operation. Once the water reached a safe level, it took ten volunteers to enter the pond with a big safety net and extricated the crocodile from the location. 

Crocodile found in a construction site near Kalali Talsat Road, Vadodara [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS]

It is not uncommon to find crocodiles in artificial water bodies. During the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, devotees often construct artificial ponds to submerge idols of Lord Ganesha as a part of the ritual. Some worshippers have been surprised by crocodiles floating in the water meant for Lord Ganesha.  These rescues occur in tandem with the fire department that happily provides Wildlife SOS and the Forest Department with the necessary equipment to conduct rescue operations. 

The tales of eventful crocodile rescues in Vadodara are endless! Yet, what needs to be emphasized is the dire need to co-exist with crocodiles that keep the ecosystem of Vadodara healthy.  To find out more about how you can help preserve Vadodara’s crocodile click HERE

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