During monsoons, the landscape of Vadodara transforms into a waterscape, when the roads in the city and its outskirts flood. Submerged streets then become an extended abode for a prehistoric reptilian denizen. Gujarat happens to be one of the largest habitats for Mugger crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris) in the country, with an estimated population of around 1,400.
A combination of rains, flooded streets and crocodiles is the perfect recipe for panic for the public. In such a situation, the Wildlife SOS Rapid Response Unit operating out of Vadodara, in collaboration with the Gujarat Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA), comes to the rescue of crocodiles every monsoon season to avoid any undesirable scenario. This season, the Wildlife SOS-GSPCA team successfully rescued over 10 Mugger crocodiles from in and around Vadodara.
Rescues of the Season
In one of the season’s earliest rescues, the team found itself in the middle of a complicated situation. A nearly 6-foot-long Mugger crocodile was spotted in a village near Vadodara, trapped in a fishing net. The Wildlife SOS Rapid Response Unit immediately rushed to the location after the locals apprised them of the scenario, and it took the team nearly 15 minutes to safely extricate the reptile. The team took extreme caution and removed the net with prudence, as in such cases, even a little amount of negligence can cause the net to strangle the reptile.
In July, Wildlife SOS rescued its biggest crocodile of the season, measuring nearly 12 feet in length. The massive crocodile was discovered by a local farmer on his agricultural field in Dumad village, situated near Vadodara. After being alerted, a 4-member team was dispatched to the rescue site located almost 10 km away.
Geared with the necessary rescue equipment, the team carried out an exhausting 1.5-hour long operation following which, the crocodile was safely extricated. The gigantic size, along with the alertness of the reptile, posed to be the main challenges during the rescue. Although muggers can reach a maximum length of up to 16 feet, the crocodiles Wildlife SOS has rescued in Vadodara mostly range between 7-8 feet in length. The crocodile was lured into a trap cage with bait and handed over to the forest department.
Due to continuous spells of rain, the agricultural fields in Vadodara and its surrounding villages get inundated with water and transform into temporary wetlands. This turns the terrain into a refuge for crocodiles to thrive in, informs Raj Bhavsar, Project Coordinator, Wildlife SOS and President, GSPCA. He adds that the region near Dumad has a high density of crocodiles and are frequently spotted in this region. It is when the water starts receding that the crocodiles can be clearly spotted in the open.
In what was the lengthiest operation of the season, the Wildlife SOS Rapid Response Unit rescued a crocodile that was stuck in a 20-feet-deep water tank at a construction site in Khalipur village, located around 10 km from Vadodara. Upon assessing the depth of the tank, its water had to be extracted before the rescue attempt, and after a 3-hour-long operation, rescuers finally pulled out the distressed crocodile from the tank. In this case, it was crucial for the team to first gauge the situation so as to alleviate the stress of the already struggling animal.
City of Crocodiles
Believe it or not, crocodiles in Vadodara enter residential colonies and societies, and even visit citizens at their doorstep sometimes! Vishwamitri, Narmada, Mahi and Dhadhar rivers are home to a lot of muggers, and three out of these four rivers flow through the city of Vadodara. The Vishwamitri river has the highest density of muggers among them, with nearly 300 individuals calling it their home.
Given that the areas close to the Vishwamitri river are prone to flooding, crocodiles are led to uncharted waters. In one particular incident, a crocodile had ventured inside the premises of a factory near the Vishwamitri area. The Wildlife SOS-GSPCA team carefully lured the reptile into a trap cage. It is believed that the crocodile entered the compound from the nearby Vishwamitri river.
The crocodile rescues can continue even as the monsoon season recedes. In mid-September, the Wildlife SOS Rapid Response Unit travelled late in the night to the Vishwamitri area, to a place called Jalaram Nagar. The team rescued two crocodiles on the same night from the area, measuring approximately 5 feet and 3 feet in length respectively. The residents of the area were certainly bewildered to find a crocodile on the road post dinner hours!
Bhavsar revealed that the team receives rescue calls from both within the city as well as from the outskirts and rural areas. Previously, crocodiles have been sighted and rescued from areas such as Waghodia, Karjan, Savli, Makarpura and Maretha, to name a few. Even though there is increased awareness among people in both urban and rural areas about the presence of Mugger crocodiles, many are caught unawares when they spot a wild crocodile in their village.
Often these interactions can lead to undesirable outcomes and that is why the Wildlife SOS-GSPCA team works toward educating people about crocodile behaviour. This is done to help them act most practically in case of a confrontation. One of the measures to be followed includes not going near the banks during the nesting season of crocodiles. Specific areas have been demarcated by steel meshes, where people can perform their daily activities such as washing clothes and taking out their domestic cattle.
Rescuing a crocodile from a difficult situation, however, remains the focus. Wildlife SOS, along with GSPCA, runs a 24×7 rescue helpline (+91 9825011117) in Vadodara. If you ever come across a crocodile in distress, do alert our team at the earliest. You can also support our crucial work by becoming a monthly donor for Wildlife SOS.