A team that spent a large part of this year rescuing a 12-year-old female crocodile from the Upvan lake in Thane, will now undertake the first census of crocodiles in the Tulsi lake at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) from July 1.
The team is headed by Kailas Darole, a Haffkine institute certified herpetologist, and 10 other wildlife enthusiasts.
“Marsh crocodiles live in all three major lakes in Mumbai – Tulsi, Vihar and Powai – and a census has never been carried out on them. I proposed the idea to the authorities at SGNP and they welcomed it. They are also willing to fund the project,” said Darole.
Initially, the study will be restricted to the Tulsi Lake. During the three-month project, Darole and his team will use a three-stage method to count the crocodiles. The crocodiles will be first photographed and then be captured on video by the team. The reptiles in the photos and those on video will be matched to arrive at a rough estimate.
According to Darole, since marsh crocodiles do not spend 24 hours in water, their movements outside the lake and their nesting sites can be tracked. Baits and traps will be set up at these sites during the third and final stage. The team will then use a branding and marking method to distinguish between the different crocodiles.
“We will mark them with a tiny cut on their scutes (scales). Crocodiles as long as 15-16 feet might also be fitted with a micro-chip to track their movements,” added Darole. The team also plans to rope in tribal people from the padas inside the park who will keep track of the movements of the reptiles.
The funding for the project. to be released by SGNP is yet to be finalised.