Marsh Crocodile of Hingol River – Hingol National Park
Introduction to Marsh Crocodile
The marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) is a carnivore Reptile of fresh waters found in lakes, rivers, and marshes. Marsh Crocodiles prefer slow-moving, shallower bodies of water rather than fast flowing, deep areas. They are also known to thrive in man-made reservoirs and irrigated canals. Although it prefers freshwater but has some tolerance to salt water as well.
Distribution of Marsh Crocodile
Status of Marsh Crocodile
The status of Marsh Crocodile according to the IUCN Red List is VULNERABLE.
Status of Marsh Crocodile in Pakistan
In Pakistan, the Marsh Crocodile is mainly found in Sindh and Balochistan Province.
Marsh Crocodile in Balochistan
In Balochistan Province, the marsh crocodile is mainly found in the Hingol River (Hingol National Park and Lasbela District), Dasht River (Kech District), Nahang River (along with the border with Iran) and Nari Gauge River (Sibi District).
In Pakistan, the population of Marsh crocodile is estimated up to 600 individuals (de Silva and Lenin 2010). The estimated population of Marsh Crocodile in Sindh is 160 while in Hingol River the estimated population of Marsh Crocodile is 64, while only 24 were seen there (Source Sindh Wildlife Department), around 200 -250 Marsh Crocodiles are found along the Iran Balochistan Border areas in different Rivers. The overall population is increasing due to many conservation activities in Sindh Province.
Salient features of the Marsh Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) of Hingol River
The Marsh Crocodile, also known as Mugger Crocodile (Waagu in Brhavi language) (The National Reptile of Pakistan) is a Carnivore Reptile found in the Hingol River which flows in the Lasbela District and Hingol National Park.
The Hingol River is 350 miles (560 km) long, the longest in Balochistan. It winds through the Makran Coastal Range and Hingol Valley between high cliffs and ultimately meets the Arabian Sea.
Male Marsh Crocodile is larger in size as compared to the Female Marsh Crocodile. The average length of the male marsh crocodile is 3.2 meters (10 feet) and the average length of the female Marsh Crocodile is 2.4 meters (8 feet).
The weight of an average male of this size will be 200-250 Kgs, the weight may differ with varying size. The color of Marsh Crocodile adult is generally grey to brown.
The male Marsh Crocodile reaches the maturity at the age of 10 years and the female Marsh Crocodile reaches the maturity at the age of 6 years.
The largest crocodile seen in Hingol River by visual estimation is 9-10 feet long.
Reproduction takes place during the dry season that is from the months of December to February. The females lay eggs in the nest which is a hole dug on the sloping banks in the sand (ground). The female Marsh Crocodile lay 3-40 eggs in the nest and is extremely protective to her eggs and will attack anything that comes close to the nest.
One interesting thing about crocodiles is that the sex of the babies is determined not by the genes but by the temperature the eggs are hatched at. At 32.5 C and above the babies will be male and at 28 – 31 C the babies will be female.
When the eggs are hatched the mother transport the babies in her mouth to the water and protect them.
The Marsh Crocodiles are much less likely to attack human than other crocodiles because of their less aggressiveness.
The Marsh Crocodiles of Hingol National Park mainly feed on the wild and domestic mammals (such as Ibex, Urial, Chinkara, domestic goat and sheep), Fish, Snakes, Turtle and Migratory Birds (such as Cranes, Ducks, Pelicans and Flamingos etc.).
The Marsh Crocodile stay in the water camouflaged when the pray approaches to drink are attacked and catch it with its strong jaws having the huge biting force and hold it with its 68 teeth and drag the pray into the water to be drowned and tore into pieces.
Threats to Marsh Crocodile in Hingol River
The main threats to the Marsh Crocodile in Hingol River are mainly illegal Hunting for Crocodile Hides, Drought, Habitat disturbance, Pollution and manmade engineering structures such as dams etc. There are no such steps taken in entire Balochistan by the Government for the Census, Conservation, and Protection of Marsh Crocodiles of Hingol River and entire Balochistan.