THE CONTEXT: The villages around Odisha’s Bhitarkanika National Park, the country’s second-largest mangrove forests, are increasingly reporting cases of snake bites during this monsoon season: At least eight people have succumbed to snake bites so far.
- Villagers in Mahakalapada and Rajnagar blocks of Kendrapada district near the national park often succumb to snake bites during the monsoon season.
- Each year on July 16, the World Snake Day, awareness camps have been organised on how to save people from snake bites and to protect reptiles.
- Snakes in the Bhitarkanika include the poisonous king cobra, banded krait, common krait bamboo snake and blue krait. Among non-poisonous snakes are the Indian Rock python, rat snake, the water snake, common worm snake, etc.
- The snakes crawl into homes in the rainy season as the monsoon is the breeding season for the reptiles. The number of snakes appearing in human habitations increases during the nesting season.
- “Reptiles attack humans when they disturb them. Snakes guard the eggs near the nests. Snakes kill rats as a result the reptiles help farmers. Killing snakes disturbs the balance of the nature’s food chain will be affected.”
ABOUT BHITARKANIKA NATIONAL PARK
- Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the estuarial region of Bramhani-Baitarani, in the north-eastern place of Kendrapara district of Odisha (Orissa), the sanctuary covers an area of 672 square kilometers of Mangrove Forests and Wetland.
- The rivers, Bramhani, Baitarani, Dhamra and Pathsala flow out to sea at Bhitarkanika forming a tidal maze of muddy creeks and mangroves. It is a Ramsar site.
- Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary is home to numerous species of birds. It is also home to the endangered and mysterious King Cobras.
- The sanctuary has to its account is the inhibition of its ecosystem by the Giant Estuarine Crocodiles and numerous varieties of other animal species.
- Bhitarkanika Mangrove Ecosystem is richest from bio-diversity point of view. The floral diversity in Bhitarkanika is 2nd largest after Papua New Guinea.
- The Protected Area encompasses variety of habitats and microhabitats. Mangroves serve as nesting, feeding and breeding grounds for wide range of invertebrates and vertebrates.
- The Sanctuary is home to the largest number of Estuarine Crocodiles in the Indian sub-continent. With a population of more than 1600 crocodiles.