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Friday, November 18, 2011

Crocodile cover for Obama ......

I have not heard of this place earlier – Darwin, the capital city of Northern Territory, Australia. Generally, people like me know places like Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne – for all of them house grounds where Test cricket gets played.  Darwin is situated on Timor sea and is the least populous of all Australia's capital cities.

Though a foreigner, Romulus Whitaker, herpetologist, wildlife conservationist is popular and well known in Chennai for his activities at  Madras Snake Park as also his association with the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust.  Herpetology is the branch of zoology concerned with the study of amphibians (including frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and gymnophiona) and reptiles (including snakes, lizards, amphisbaenids, turtles, terrapins, tortoises, crocodilians, and the tuataras]  The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology (MCBT) is a reptile zoo and herpetology research station,  in Chennai  situated closer to Mahabalipuram.    The bank is the first crocodile breeding centre in Asia.   It was established with the aim of saving three Indian endangered species of crocodile—the marsh or mugger crocodile, the saltwater crocodile, and the gharial,which at the time of founding of the trust were all nearing extinction.  Now the centre has one of the world's largest collections of crocodiles and alligators and has bred 5,000 crocodiles and alligators representing 10 of the 23 existing species, including the three crocodile species, all considered endangered, that are native to India.

the muggers at the crocodile bank, chennai
- a photo taken by me...

Crocodile attacks on people are common in places where large crocodiles are native and human populations live.  Only six of the 23 crocodilian species are considered dangerous to adult humans, and only individuals 2 metres (6.6 ft) in length or more represent a serious danger to humans, as smaller crocodiles are considered incapable of killing a person. The two species with the most well-known and documented reputation for preying on humans are the Nile crocodile and saltwater crocodile. Each year, hundreds of deadly attacks are attributed to the Nile crocodile in sub-Saharan Africa. The mugger crocodile is also very dangerous to humans, killing many people in India every year.  
The attack of crocodile could in defense of its territory, nest, or self or can be predatory, accidental or in the course of handling by the people.

This post is not entirely of how much crocodiles can harm human being but about a coverage provided to the US President Barack Obama when he visited Australia’s Northern Territory.  He is  be presented with insurance coverage against attack — crocodile attack. The territory’s chief minister, Paul Henderson, said he will give Obama the unusual policy when the president arrives in the remote tropical city of Darwin. Darwin boasts the largest crocodile numbers in Australia. The local TIO insurance company offers a 50,000 Australian dollar ($51,000 U.S.) insurance policy against crocodile attack within the region. The novelty certificates, at a price of 10 Australian dollars, make popular souvenirs among tourists.  “We’ve got the crocodile insurance ready to go for Michelle and the kids — 50 grand if the president does get taken,” Henderson told Sky TV. “We don’t think that’s going to happen, but it should provide a little bit of reassurance.’

Obama and Gillard 

If the visiting President were to get  gets too close to the cliff's edge there overlooking the harbour, he will have insurance in the event of any crocodile attack.  The authorities were quoted as saying that this will be present to somebody who travels a lot around the world, receives many gifts, but  sure he's never received a gift like this and it'll look pretty good in the presidential library.  The gift of a  policy  designed to give Mr Obama's family peace of mind.

Darwin is the only Australian city Mr Obama is visiting aside from the national capital.  Extra police officers have been flown in, some roads will be blocked and planes not cleared by security will be turned away from Darwin airport.  The US President is going to Darwin to thank the Australian military for hosting the new U.S. military presence here. A small liaison team of U.S. Marines is already here. By 2012, a company-sized U.S. Marine presence — between 200 and 250 Marines — will call Darwin home, and that force will ramp up to 2,500 in the coming years. The president and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard earlier visited a memorial for the USS Peary, a U.S. warship bombed by the Japanese on February 19, 1942 during World War II. Ninety-one crewmen were killed.

Elephant trunk caught by alligator –
 National Geographic picture

Not so lucky are the many residents of Sundarbans  -  which houses thick mangrove.  Many have been killed or maimed by crocodile, shark and Royal Bengal tiger attacks.  Such incidents increase in the years of crop failure in the part of South 24-parganas district in West Bengal.  They wail stating that only  widows would be left to live in the villages.  Quite unfortunately, it is stated that almost every household in Jamespur and Annpur villages of Sundarbans has lost one member to tiger, crocodile or shark attacks.
Tigers pounce on fishermen catching fish, crab or villagers collecting honey, firewood in the mangrove jungle which is home to the largest number of tigers in the world.  Estuarine crocodiles prey on the villagers when catching shrimp seeds in the tidal rivers and sharks cut limbs to bleed people to death.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

PS:  In one of my visits to Coimbatore, I went to a park maintained by the Municipality.  It houses a small zoo. There was an old person, who entered into the crocodile enclosure, with some difficulty and great effort using sticks opened the mouth of the mugger crocodile and shoved the meat pieces into its mouth.

Astonished I asked him, why would he do that ?  - he responded that crocodiles are generally lazy and would not devour the food immediately.  The pieces may get eaten by crows and other birds…  so much devoted to his work was he but little did he realise the danger..

The other day at Crocodile park near Mahabalipuram, saw those big ungainly creatures move rather fast when pieces were thrown. One or two fell closer to the compound wall… the caretaker here with the sticks sent the crocs farther, jumped inside to take out and upon climbing threw the chops closer to them.  When he asked, he said, these animals can be very angry and a bit can cause even lose of a limb ! 

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