Crocodiles are large reptiles belonging to the family Crocodylidae. A semi-aquatic animal, the Crocodile is an ambush hunter found in tropical and subtropical areas. There are two crocodile species in India – the Saltwater crocodile and the Mugger crocodile.
The Gharial is another semi-aquatic reptile found in India. It is however not classified as a crocodile although sometimes called a fish-eating crocodile. Gharial belongs to the family Gavialidae.
Crocodile species in India
Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
Saltwater Crocodiles are the largest crocodile species in the world. They are found in India, Bangladesh, southeast Asia, and Northern Australia. In India, saltwater crocodiles are seen in the eastern coastal states facing the Bay of Bengal. These crocodiles can grow over 6 meters in length. The larger specimens weigh over 1000 kilograms.
Young crocs are light-coloured and have black spots. Adults are much darker in colour. The best places to see the Saltwater crocodile in India are the protected forests of West Bengal and Odisha (Orissa).
Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris)
Mugger crocodiles, also known as Marsh crocodiles are found almost throughout India except at higher altitudes. Though not as large as Saltwater crocodiles, Mugger can still reach a length of 5 meters. Most large specimens weigh between 300-450 kilograms.
These crocodiles when young are olive coloured with black spots. As they grow they become darker. Adults have dark olive or dark brown colour, sometimes yellowish-grey. Classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Muggers are also found in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Iran, and Bangladesh.
Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)
As mentioned earlier, Gharial is not a crocodile species. It is classified under the family Gavialidae. The gharial is easily distinguished by its long, narrow snout. Full-grown adult males are 3-6 meters long and generally weigh 150-250 kilograms.
Classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Gharial is in dire need of conservation. Some of the best places to see Gharials in India are National Chambal Gharial Sanctuary and Katarniya Ghat Wildlife Sanctuary.
Points to remember
- Species of the order Crocodilia are known as Crocodilians – Alligators, Crocodiles, Gharials, and Caimans.
- Europe and Antarctica are two continents with no crocodilian species.
- Alligators are found only in the USA, China, and Mexico.