The Sindhudurg district in Maharashtra has a population of more than 8 lakh people, of which just 12.59% is urban. Among the many villages in the district is Insuli, where the river Tiracol flows. The waters are usually quiet, until the resident crocodiles emerge.
Ramchandar Charatkar, a 38-year old poultry trader, lives on the banks of the Tiracol river, which flows from Maharashtra, right into Goa.
According to a report in The Times of India, around half a dozen crocodiles swim close to the bank, all responding to Ramchandar’s shrill whistles.
For more than a decade, he has been feeding the reptiles around twice a week.
It began when he spotted two crocodile babies close to the river. Ramchandar nurtured the reptiles, increasing their numbers, by keeping them healthily-fed, on a chicken diet. The closest he has come to the awe-inspiring reptiles is about 6 feet.
He told The Times of India, that he throws the crocodiles a dead chicken, after whistling to beckon them, while standing on the river bank perched 15 feet from the water. The predators emerge, grab the prize, rip it apart, and vamoose, the Mathematics graduate said. He feeds them chicken leftovers of an entire dead bird.
He says that there would be at least 25 crocodiles around the river stretch currently. It is a floating population, with some reptiles swimming to other parts of the river with the current.
Soham Mukherjee, a herpetologist, claims that crocodiles are ‘trainable’ creatures, and explains their behaviour. What Ramchander’s whistle did is behaviourally condition the crocodiles, he says.
Mukherjee, who was an assistant curator at Madras Crocodile Bank, claimed that crocodiles could be trained to follow at least 25 target behaviours.
Ramchandar doesn’t fear the crocodiles, and claims they haven’t harmed anyone, including the buffaloes that plod through the waters to graze on the other bank. His wife is also familiar with them and has nothing to fear. Even his father, Vishnu, claimed that villagers go fishing and sand mining, and return unharmed.
According to Deputy Commissioner of Forests (Sindhudurg), Samadan Chavan, the place is in the works to be promoted as a ‘Magar Darshan’ (crocodile viewing point). Ramchandar’s rapport with his local crocodiles is drawing tourists from Mumbai, Goa and Delhi. A plan to set up a watchtower on the banks is in progress, where visitors will be able to view the crocodiles using telescopes.
Well, for those who love the magnificent reptiles, here’s a chance to hang out with Maharashtra’s very own Crocodile Pied Piper.
Another man who loves these reptiles, is the Crocodile Man of Karnataka, Shivram Patil, who incidentally even has a friend called Dandelappa, a 14-foot long mugger crocodile, one of many in the Kali river, near Patil’s field, according to the New Indian Express.
Patil subsequently found some baby crocodiles playing in his farm, and lifted them, to take them to the river bank. When he reached there, the mother crocodile and Dandelappa were waiting. Patil quickly released the babies, who went back to their mother, and an unbreakable bond of trust was thus formed between Patil and his crocodiles.
Patil was just 24 when he decided to cultivate the fields on the banks of the Kali river. Since then, he grew attached with the crocodile family. His bond with the crocodile clan, which comprises around 250 reptiles only grew stronger.
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Patil’s strange friendship with the endangered reptiles obviously gained the attention of wildlife activists, and forest authorities alike who even slapped a couple of cases against Patil. That caused him to erect a fence, which barricades his field from the river.
Yet, the Crocodile Man’s love for his reptilian clan remains unchanged, and even the crocodiles find a way to sneak into his farm, so that man and reptile can spend some quality time together.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)