|Designated||19 August 2002|
The Bhitarkanika Mangroves were zamindari forests until 1952, when the government of Odisha abolished the zamindari system, and put the zamindari forests in the control of the state forest department. In 1975, an area of 672 km2 was declared the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary. The core area of the sanctuary, with an area of 145 km2, was declared Bhitarkanika National Park in September 1998. The Gahirmatha Marine Wildlife Sanctuary, which bounds the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary to the east, was created in September 1997, and encompasses Gahirmatha Beach and an adjacent portion of the Bay of Bengal. Bhitarkanika Mangroves were designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 2002.
The Bhitarkanika Mangroves are home to 55 of India's 58 known mangrove species. The mangroves harbor one of India's largest populations of saltwater crocodiles, and Gahirmatha Beach, which separates the mangroves from the Bay of Bengal, is the world's most important nesting beach for olive ridley sea turtles. Some wildlife experts are of the opinion that the largest saltwater crocodile ever was in Bhitarkanika, measuring an estimated 23 feet (7.0 m) which could be traced from the skull preserved by the Kanika Royal Family. The crocodile was shot near Dhamara in 1926, and later its skull was preserved by the then Kanika King. Crocodile experts estimate the animal to have been between 20 feet (6.1 m) and 23 feet (7.0 m) long, as the size of the skull was measured one ninth of the total length of the body. In 2006 the park was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest white crocodile living in captivity also measuring 23 feet. The wetland also hosts a large and diverse population of resident and migratory birds. Rhesus monkey, leopard cat, fishing cat, jungle cat, small Indian civet cat, toddy cat, common mongoose, jackal, striped hyena, Indian fox, wild pig, Indian porcupine, mole rat, long tailed tree mouse, spotted deer, sambar, common otter, smooth Indian otter are also found here.
Olive ridley turtlesEdit
Gahirmatha coast in Kendrapara district is the world’s largest nesting beach for olive ridley turtles. Declared a wild life sanctuary in Odisha in 1979, and a world heritage site, Gahirmatha is significant for turtle conservation. The views of the sanctuary, located on the converging point of the Dhamra River and Bay of Bengal attracts nature loving tourists. The area covered by the sanctuary is nearly 1,435 km2. The sanctuary has been declared a world heritage site and has slowly attracted attention as an important place in Odisha Tourism. Gahirmatha turtle sanctuary hosts a variety of flora and fauna. Local flora includes bels, terminenalia, zizphus bija, salaia sal, babul, teak, bamboo and other varieties in the sanctuary. Although the sanctuary is known for the giant olive ridleys which travel from as far as the Pacific Ocean to nest here, it also hosts the wild boars, barking deers, bears, leopards, crocodiles, jungle fowls, hyenas, wild dogs, four horned antelopes, sloth bears and blue bulls. On a clear moonlit night, during the nesting season, visitors can see thousands of turtles crawling out of the sea as they drag themselves towards the beach. They usually select a suitable site, dig a hole in the sand with their flippers, lay nearly 120 eggs each, cover and compact the holes with their own body, sweep out all traces of their visit and crawl back to the sea – all within 45 minutes. The state government, assisted by international and regional NGOs has created this habitat for giant turtles. This has only been made possible by adhering to strict regulations banning fishing and forbidding nearby industries to run amok. Today the harmless creatures can at least move around freely thanks to the timely intervention of the government. Thousands of giant olive ridleys in Gahirmatha. Nearby is the temple of Lord Shiva built in the early 9th century in Dangmol. Bhitarkanika wild life sanctuary and national park near the Gahirmatha sanctuary is also an attraction. It is recognized as the second largest mangrove ecosystem in India covering an area of 672 km2. The forest offers shelter to more than 2145 species of birds. It is also recognized s a “crocodile sanctuary” and is home to the biggest population of salt water crocodiles in the country.
- "Bhitarkanika Mangroves". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
- "Ramsar Convention Official site". Archived from the original on 2013-12-12.
- PC Mishra; N Behera; BK Senapathi; BC Guru (2005). Advances in Ecology and Environmental Sciences. APH publishing corporation. p. 425. ISBN 978-81-7024-676-3.
Guinness: India Park Home to World's Largest Crocodile; 23 Feet, underwatertimes.com