Odisha re-opens Bhitarkanika national park to visitors

Bhubaneswar, August 1 : The Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha which was shut two-and-half months ago to facilitate crocodile nesting re-opened to visitors Thursday, a park official said.

Around 30 tourists and wild lovers visited the park Thursday. The number of visitors is expected to grow gradually in the coming days, Divisional Forest Officer Manoj Mohapatra told IANS.

The park has accommodation facilities for 60 visitors and tourists but nobody opted for night stay, he said.

The accommodation charges for night stay have of late been hiked more than three times. The daily charges for a six-bedded dormitory was earlier about Rs.600. It has been revised to Rs.1000, he said.

Similarly, the charges for cottages, suites and cabins have also gone up four-five times, he said.

Although December-February is the peak tourist season, many visitors come to see local birds that flock to the park around this time. The park houses about 10,000 local birds, including Openbill Storks and different varieties of herons, he said.

The park in coastal Kendrapara district, 170 km from here, was closed from May 15 as crocodiles tend to become violent during the nesting season. It is home to about 1,600 saltwater crocodiles.

Crocodiles mate between February and April and nesting takes place in May. A female crocodile, on an average, lays about 45 eggs.

Hatchlings emerge from the eggs after 70-80 days. A mother crocodile actively guards the nest, usually prepared with mangrove twigs, leaves and mud.

Bhitarkanika, also a wild life sanctuary, found a mention in the Guinness World Records in 2006 with a 23-foot saltwater crocodile listed as the largest in the world. It is also known as the world's largest rookery of Olive Ridley sea turtles.

--IANS (Posted on 01-08-2013)

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