Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha opens for visitors
 Source : IANS  Date : 01-Aug-2014

Bhubaneswar, August 1: The Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha which was closed for three months to facilitate crocodile breeding and nesting reopened for visitors Friday, an official said.

Dozens of tourists visited the park as soon as it was opened. The number of visitors is expected to grow gradually in the coming days.

"The exact number of tourists who visited the park on the first day would be known in the evening," divisional forest officer Kedar Kumar Swain said.

Although the December-February period is the peak tourist season, many visitors come to see birds that flock in the park around this time of the year. The park houses about 30,000 local birds, including Openbill Storks and varieties of herons, he said.

The park, located in coastal Kendrapara district, 170 km from here, was closed from May 1 as crocodiles tend to become violent during the breeding and nesting season. It is home to about 1,644 crocodiles.

Crocodiles mate between February and April and nesting takes place in May. A female crocodile, on an average, lays about 45 eggs.

Hatchlings emerge from the eggs after 70-80 days. A mother crocodile zealously guards her nest, usually prepared with mangrove twigs, leaves and mud.

Bhitarkanika, also a wild life sanctuary, found a mention in the Guinness World Records in 2006 with a 23-foot saltwater crocodile listed as the largest in the world. It is also known as the world's largest rookery of Olive Ridley sea turtles.