A five-foot-long crocodile, which wandered into a village in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras, was rescued in a late-night operation by Wildlife SOS and the Forest Department, and released into a nearby water body, officials said on Tuesday.
The crocodile was spotted resting in a bajra field near the Nagla Tara Singh village by farmers on Monday evening, stirring panic amongst the local residents.
The Forest Department was immediately alerted about the incident and contacted the Wildlife SOS team asking for their expert assistance in carrying out the rescue operation.
A three-member team from the NGO drove nearly 100 km to reach the location in Sikandrarao area of Hathras.
In the meantime, a crowd had gathered around the field to catch a glimpse of the crocodile. After ensuring that the onlookers were at a safe distance from the agitated reptile, a team of forest officers and Wildlife SOS rescuers who were geared with the necessary equipment, safely carried out the rescue operation. The crocodile was deemed fit and later released in Hazara Canal located in Etah.
Kartick Satyanarayan of Wildlife SOS said: "When dealing with big, powerful animals like crocodiles, our rescuers have to exercise extreme caution to avoid any mishaps. It is essential that we remain sensitive to the presence of wild animals and learn to co-exist. We are happy to assist the Forest Department and the state government in mitigating man-animal conflict situations."
Sanjeev Kumar, Range Forest Officer, Sikandrarao, said: "The rescue was a success and we are glad to see the crocodile return to its natural habitat. We are thankful to the Wildlife SOS team for their expert assistance in conducting such a sensitive rescue operation."
Baiju Raj M.V, Director Conservation Projects, Wildlife SOS, said: "Mugger crocodiles are found in freshwater habitats including ponds, rivers, lakes, and marshes and they can migrate considerable distances over land in search of a more suitable habitat. India is home to three crocodilian species - mugger crocodile, gharial, and the saltwater crocodile."
The Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus Palustris), also called the marsh crocodile, is native to the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Burma, Pakistan and some parts of Iran. It is most commonly found in freshwater environments such as rivers, lakes, hill streams, village ponds and human-made reservoirs. This species is listed as 'Vulnerable' on the IUCN Red List and is protected under schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act.