Protecting Forests With Crocodiles

India Takes the "Pitfall" Wildlife Management Approach

Underfunded National Park and Forest rangers often struggle to keep humans from encroaching on sensitive wilderness areas forbidden to human impact. But maybe they could take a page from Indian forest rangers, who've taken a decidedly more aggressive approach: They've released captive-bred crocodiles into the water bodies of Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary to protect it from human impact.

"We are pressing into service these reptiles for forest conservation. Once crocodiles are firmly ensconced in the water inlets, human intrusion would be greatly curtained. Fear of croc attack would keep the human trespassers away from the water sources. As the people here take the water route to sneak into the forest, we feel the crocs may come in handy to protect the forest", observed Golakh Rout, Assistant Conservator of Forest, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division.

The sensitive mangrove forests within Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary have been under threat from both unchecked human intrusion and illegal tree felling, which the locals regularly engage in to make room for rice paddies and shrimp farms. Rangers hope the 57 recently introduced "forest guardians" will stop violators dead in their tracks.

I'd say the chances of that happening are pretty good.

— Ted Alvarez

Trained crocodiles deployed as forest guards (