Forest dept struggles to rope in crack team of crocodile catchers as it's preoccupied with other assignments; naval training stalled since spotting of reptile in Khadakwasla water body in July

Cadets at the National Defence Academy (NDA) will have to wait at least four more months before they can resume their naval training in Khadakwasla lake, which was declared off-limits after a huge crocodile was spotted in the water body in July. 

Lurking fear: The forest department has banned swimming in the 
Khadakwasla lake after a crocodile was spotted in July. File pic

The forest department has not been able to bring over crocodile catchers to fish out the beast yet. The forest department has approached Chennai Crocodile Bank Trust for the job. But the trust, which is preoccupied with its ongoing assignments in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, said it  could make itself available for the Khadakwasla job only after finishing its ongoing projects. And it could well take four months, said an official of the Chennai trust. 

Even as the authorities wonder where the crocodile came from, wildlife experts suggest the beast could have crawled into the water body from any of the nearby dams -- Varasgaon and Panshet. At the Khadakwasla camp, the NDA offers training to its naval cadets in sailing, water sports, swimming and other activities in the lake through out the year. But they banned swimming and water sports immediately after learning about the intrusion of the beast in July. 

Commandant Lt. Gen. Jatinder Singh had written a letter to the Conservator of Forests apprising him of the problem in July, but the forest department is yet to take any action. At any given time during the year, around 2,000 cadets, including 200 naval cadets, train at the NDA camp. 

According to wildlife experts, incidents of crocodiles straying from one water body to the other is not new in this region gifted with nature's bounty. A few months ago, another crocodile was spotted in the Katraj lake following which the water body was banned by the Katraj Zoo authorities. Deputy Conservator of Forests Rajendra Kadam said Khadakwasla lake was otherwise safe for boating activities.

"We understand the gravity of the situation and will take corrective measures at the earliest. Catching a crocodile in a large area like the Khadakwasla reservoir, spread over 30 sq km, is a difficult task. We will meanwhile put up warning signs on various parts of the lake disallowing swimming," he added. An NDA official requesting anonymity said that cadets have now gone on vacation but the problem should be solved by the time the next batch comes in. "It is difficult to compromise on important training curriculum. We hope the problem 
is solved at the earliest", the official said.