With crocodiles being spotted in some residential localities of Sangli after flooding due to heavy rains, the forest department has set up six centres in such areas to rescue the reptiles and avoid incidents of human-animal conflict, officials said on Wednesday.
Sangli in western Maharashtra was hit by heavy downpour recently, leading to inundation at several places in the district.
Later, as the rain intensity ebbed and the water level in villages along the Krishna river banks started coming down, crocodiles were spotted on some roads, in drains, and even on the roofs of houses, triggering panic among people.
According to forest officials, crocodiles inhabit 60-70 km of the river stretch passing through around 15 villages, including Bhilwadi, Malwadi, Digraj, Audumbarwadi, Chopadewadi and Brahmnal. In the past, there have been incidents of human-animal conflicts in some of these areas.
"During the recent heavy rains, crocodiles were swept away along with the flood waters into some villages," Regional Forest Officer, Sangli range, P G Sutar told PTI.
In one case, a crocodile was spotted on the roof of a house, but the animal later returned to the river along with the flow of water, he said.
Deputy Conservator of Forest (Sangli) Vijay Mane said the forest department has now set up six centres near some flood-hit areas of Sangli city, Kavthe Mahakal, Palus, Kadegaon, Walwa and part of Tasgaon for rescuing crocodiles from these places.
At these rescue centres, teams comprising forest officials, guards and members from NGOs working for wildlife conservation will respond to calls of the presence of crocodiles, snakes, injured birds and other wild animals in human habitats, he said.
"We have circulated a toll-free helpline number (1926) and personal numbers of forest officials and NGO members. If someone calls to inform about the presence of crocodile or any other wild animal, the team from the nearest centre will go there, rescue the animal and initiate a process to release it into its natural habitat," the official said.
The objective of these rescue centres is to prevent any harm to the wild animals and minimise incidents of human-animal conflict, he added.
Tabreg Khan, a member of the NGO Nature Conservation Society in Sangli, claimed the natural habitat of crocodiles along the Krishna river has been destroyed due to indiscriminate sand excavation activities.
"Now, during floods, the animals easily get swept away towards villages," he rued, and appealed to people not to harm crocodiles and inform the forest department and NGOs if they spot the reptile in their area.
Amol Jadhav, another member of the NGO, asked people not to panic.
He also said several videos of crocodiles venturing into villages were doing the rounds, but most of them were either of the 2019 floods in Sangli or other parts of the country.
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