At­tacks in the An­damans

In­creas­ing hu­man pop­u­la­tion, de­struc­tion of ecosys­tems by the tsunami and im­proper dump­ing of waste have spiked crocodile as­saults on hu­mans VARD­HAN PATANKAR VRUSHAL PEND­HARKAR |

Down to Earth - - WILDLIFE - AND

AN UN­USUAL con­flict is brew­ing in the pic­turesque is­lands of An­daman and Ni­co­bar, home to one of last re­main­ing habi­tats of the salt­wa­ter crocodile. Be­tween 2005 and 2015, there have been 22 at­tacks by croc­o­diles on hu­mans in these is­lands. Of these, 11 were fa­tal and the rest re­sulted in in­juries. In con­trast, prior to the tsunami of 2004, there were 20 at­tacks in 18 years.

But the seeds of in­creas­ing hu­man­crocodile con­flicts were sown even a decade be­fore the tsunami. Ac­cord­ing to Harry An­drews, a her­petol­o­gist who has been work­ing here for 20 years, heavy in­flux of mi­grants from Ben­gal, Tamil Nadu, Ker­ala and Andhra Pradesh has dis­turbed the ecosys­tem. The num­ber of mi­grants has in­creased—from 280,000 in 1991 to 360,000 in 2001. The cur­rent es­ti­mates sug­gest the fig­ures could be close to 390,000.

To sup­port an in­creas­ing hu­man pop­u­la­tion, man­groves—the pre­ferred habi­tat of croc­o­diles—found along the 1,982 km of coast­line and fresh­wa­ter creeks were cleared. “It is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for croc­o­diles to find space, espe­cially dur­ing the breed­ing sea­son, when they pre­fer fresh­wa­ter creeks and marshy ar­eas to lay their eggs,” says An­drews. Most at­tacks oc­curred due to habi­tat de­struc­tion, he adds.

Tsunami im­pacts

The tsunami de­nuded 3,730 hectares of coastal veg­e­ta­tion in North An­daman and 7.5 per cent of the man­groves were dam­aged along the creeks of Lit­tle and South An­daman. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port com­piled by a late sci­en­tist who pi­o­neered re­search in the An­daman, Ravi Sankaran, the tsunami caused 50 per cent more dam­age than an­thro­pogenic dis­tur­bances.

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