For almost 45 days, she saw torch lights, listened to the hoots and came for chicken placed at a specific spot on the banks of the Upvan lake in Thane.
This routine, carefully orchestrated by a four-member team of wildlife enthusiasts, finally came to an end on Thursday at 4am, when the 7-foot female crocodile was successfully rescued from the lake. She was release in the Tulsi lake inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park later in the evening. At her new home, she will have about seven other crocodiles for company. Before freeing her, forest officials inserted a microchip under the tail to will help track her movements in the future.
Around 13 years ago, locals spotted two young crocodiles, a male and a female, in the Upvan lake. "Six years ago, the male was killed by locals who mistook him for a monitor lizard. Since then, she has been alone," said Jagdish Wakale, project education officer, Nature Information Centre, SGNP.
"With locals around the lake using it to wash clothes and sometimes even swim, the crocodile posed a danger. But fortunately, there have been no incidents," Wakale added.
Three months ago, a local organisation decided to introduce boating in the lake and develop it into a tourist spot, following which they approached the team requesting them to trap the crocodile.
It took the team about three weeks to trace the crocodile, after which, the setup for the rescue began. "Initially, she would shy away. But slowly, she started responding to our signals because we also fed her chicken," said Wakale.
Four days ago, the team made a 12-foot nylon rope cage supported with bamboos using chicken as bait. For three days, the crocodile walked around the cage but didn't enter it. On Thursday, she entered the cage and was rescued.