Sri Lanka crocodile plans stir controversy

April 20, 2012 at 7:54 PM
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, April 20 (UPI) -- The Sri Lankan government, reacting to deadly crocodile attacks, says it may capture the animals and confine them to parks, a move slammed by conservationists.

The country's Wildlife Department has mounted a campaign to capture crocodiles lurking in the rivers and estuaries of the island nation and relocate them in conservation parks, saying it is for the safety of both of citizens and the protected animals.

Encounters with crocodiles can and should be avoided, conservationists said, and rounding them up is not the answer.

"I have told the government that setting up conservation parks is not feasible," said Anslem de Silva, vice chairman of the crocodile group at the International Union for Conservation of Nature in South Asia and Iran.

"With this new plan, whenever people see a crocodile, they will ask authorities to come and catch it, even if it is a harmless one."

The Wildlife Department's plans to set up crocodile conservation centers in Kirala Kele in the Southern province and in the Muthurajawela wetlands in the Western province are unsound, de Silva said.

"What is happening is that human beings are increasingly encroaching on crocodile habitats. There have been crocodile attacks reported from the Nilwala River for hundreds of years -- but this is a crocodile habitat," Namal Kamalgoda, conservationist and former president of the Sri Lanka Natural History Society, told the Inter Press Service.

The situation of the crocodile is no different from that of other Sri Lankan wildlife such as elephants and leopards that are being crowded out by human settlements, he said.

"This is the inevitable path of development and animals will always be the losers."

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