Monday, March 21, 2016

Mugger Crocodile

A birding trip on Sunday on the Mapusa river in Goa had a surprise in store for us. Resting among the mangrove trees that line the Salim Ali Bird sanctuary, were two Mugger Crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris Latin for 'Crocodile of the marsh/ swamp). 
The name "mugger" is adapted from Hindi word magar, meaning crocodile- so the name basically means crocodile crocodile. 
These shy crocodiles are one of the three crocodiles that are found in India and because of their dwindling number they are classified as Vulnerable. 
Crocodiles are related to birds; as surprising as that may sound they shared a common ancestor 240 million years ago.   

The crocodiles were very well camouflaged and if not for our sharp eyed boatman/ guide we would have definitely not spotted these awe inspiring crocodiles.
Living on the banks of the gently flowing Mapusa river, the crocodile probably survives on a diet of fish and perhaps occasionally indulges on birds.

One of the classic way of differentiating a crocodile from an alligator is by looking at its teeth. In the above photograph, you can see the fourth tooth pointing upwards. When their jaws are shut, crocodiles flash some teeth that point upwards, unlike alligators.

So were crocodiles always part of Goa's ecosystem- perhaps yes, but there is an interesting story first narrated by the 16th Century chronicler Joao de Barros who swore that the crocodiles were introduced by 'Adil Shah of Bijapur, as a guard against surprise attacks and to prevents slaves from escaping'. Whatever be the case, the Portuguese themselves regularly sent prisoners of wars and condemned criminals as an a la carte item in the crocodiles otherwise sea-food diet.
Despite all the horrible history, the crocodiles did not appreciate our presence and a few minutes later they quickly scampered into the water.