There’s panic in the lanes surrounding Sheetal talao in Kurla (W), after several residents spotted baby crocodiles in the lake. The residents managed to click pictures of a baby croc on the edge of the lake, but volunteers from Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW) found none in a day long search on Monday.
Sheetal talao is a natural lake that is spread over an acre, and is around 35-ft deep. Surrounded by chawls, shanties and hundreds of single storey buildings, the lake is one of the major immersion points during the Ganpati festival. The crocs-in-the-lake reports have shocked the animal activists and the Forest Department officials, who are now investigating whether the hatchlings have been dumped in the lake.
Activist Anil Galgali, who resides in Kurla, said it would be foolish to dismiss the reports. “We obviously need to find the hatchlings, and that’s going to take time because it’s a large lake, more than double the size of the Bandra talao. We need to investigate whether the lake is being used to illegally breed crocodiles,” he said.
Sandeep Hutgi, who resides in Kausar Manzil close to the lake, said he spotted a hatchling around a week ago, and provided the authorities with a picture. “The one we saw was barely a foot long. The pictures have been forwarded to the ward official, and we have been told they will put up halogen lights and search the lake,” he said.
While the BMC officials didn’t confirm whether the lake could have been used to dump the hatchlings, the animal activists found several turtles in the lake. Pawan Sharma from RAWW, who was part of the inspection team on Monday, said they have sought help from noted zoologist Kailas Darole, who had recently rescued a 200-kg crocodile from Thane’s Upvan lake.
“The residents told us there could be five hatchlings in there. We couldn’t find any, but we did see several turtles, and their condition indicated they were dumped in the lake or caught during fishing trips,” Sharma said.
Sunil Limaye, chief conservator of forests and field director, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, said the hatchlings, if found, will be sent to the Tulsi lake, which has a sizeable population of crocodiles. “While an initial survey was conducted by the RAWW volunteers, we will get experts to search the lake,” Limaye said.
Assistant Municipal Commissioner Harshad Kale said there were “specific complaints” but nothing has been ascertained yet. “We can’t confirm the presence of baby crocodiles in the lake. But the Forest Department is looking into the complaints, and we can only wait for their verdict,” he said. (MM)