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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

drying Nerkundram lake lets out Crocodile... mugger in Chennai

In Zoology, there is the tetrapods ~ the superclass Tetrapoda are ‘four footed’ animals and would include amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Chennai has no rivers [not to speak of Coovum and Buckingham canal] and very few water bodies; the lakes have long ago been converted to dwelling places…….. as you travel in Poonamallee High Road, after Arumbakkam, crossing the 100 ft road, you would head for Maduravoyal, Nerkundram…. ~ Nerkundram [which means place of paddy] has a lake which is drying up now with the heat of summer.  Thinking it to be just another day, a man was grazing his cows nearer the lake; the animals suddenly started running helter-skelter; the man went closer and got a shock of life.. as he was something totally unexpected in the partially dry lake in Sadanandapuram.  

He had seen a crocodile ~ a fully grown fierce marsh crocodile or a mugger.  Crocodiles are large aquatic tetrapods that live throughout the tropics in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia.  Though there could be many biological varieties, broadly there are – the mugger, alligator and gharials. The  obvious trait of crocodiles is their long upper and lower jaws being  the same width, and teeth in the lower jaw fall along the edge or outside the upper jaw when the mouth is closed. 

Crocodiles are ambush predators, waiting for fish or land animals to come close, then rushing out to attack. Crocodiles mostly eat fish, amphibians, crustaceans, molluscs, birds, reptiles, mammals and occasionally cannibalize on smaller crocodiles.  They can attack and harm humans too.  What a crocodile eats varies greatly with species, size and age.

The gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) are native to India and are found in Ganges valley.  The Nepali and Hindi word ghaā means earthenware pot, pitcher, water vessel.  The gharial is characterised by its extremely long, thin jaws, regarded as an adaptation to a predominantly fish diet. Crocodiles are very fast over short distances, even out of water. The land speed record for a crocodile is 17 km/h (11 mph) measured in a galloping Australian freshwater crocodile raised clear of the ground.

Now read this report in TOI in Chennai edition titled ‘Drying Nerkundram lake throws up a croc’.

Chennai: It was just another day for Venkatesan. He had taken his four cowsfor grazing near a lake in Nerkundram when suddenly the animalsbegan running helter-skelter. He went closer and saw a crocodilein a corner of the partially dry lakein Sadanandapuram.      “It was a male, about six feet in length. Four of us reached the lake around10.30am after a villager alerted us. We had a tough time handling it and tying its mouth,” said David Raj, a forest official. “We handed the reptile over to officials at the Vandalur zoo,” he said.

Experts at the Madras Crocodile Bank identified it as a mugger or marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustris). “Muggers are found commonly in Tamil Nadu. They are classified as vulnerable by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act of India,” said Dr Gowri Mallapur of MadrasCrocodile Bank Trust/Centre for Herpetology, Mamallapuram. “This particular animal looks healthy and seems to be surviving well so close to the city,” she said. Forest officials say it is almost impossible to find another crocodile in that area. “The lake is dry and it is unlikely that another mugger would be found there. We did receive a call two years ago about a crocodile but it turned out to be a false alarm,” said DavidRaj.

Environmentalists say it is pleasant to spot a crocodile so close to the city. “Crocodiles live near marshlands and river banks. It is good to know there is still space for these animals in thecity,” said V Arun, an environmentalist. Obviously residents and common public would have a different view ~ for it poses danger and threat and would not be pleasant to have one living nearby……… the mugger can grow up to five metres in length, has the broadest snout of any member of its genus.  Crocodiles eat animals, can attack and harm humans…..

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 easily cause loss of a limb !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
15th May 2013.

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