The Bhitarkanika National Park has re-established itself as the largest habitat of estuarine crocodiles with a record number of nesting sites of endangered species being sighted.

A record number of 103 nesting sites of crocodiles were spotted this time enumerators. Last year, 101 sites had been spotted, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya said.

Female crocodiles lay 50 to 60 eggs and the hatchlings usually emerge from the nests after 70 to 80 days of the incubation period.

Bhitarkanika is said to house 70% of India’s estuarine crocodile or saltwater crocodiles, conservation of which was started way back in 1975.

The number of saltwater crocodiles, the species which are not found in any other river system in Odisha, as per the latest census, in Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary stood is estimated to be 1742 as per the latest census.

Bhitarakanika, a Ramsar international wetland site, is one of the richest storehouses of mangrove genes. Researchers have come across 11 of the 70 mangrove species, which were facing the threat of extinction in the world, in Bhitarakanika.

Adequate conservation measures by the state forest department have led to a systematic rise in the number of these reptiles over the years, claimed officials.

The wildlife sanctuary has remained out of bounds for tourists and visitors to ensure disturbance-free annual nesting of crocodiles. The enforced restriction on entry to the sanctuary was clamped on 31 May and it would be lifted on July 31, said officials.