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 |
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.
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.