Bhitarkanika National Park

Coordinates: 20°45′N 87°0′E / 20.750°N 87.000°E / 20.750; 87.000
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Bhitarkanika National Park Odisha
(Odia: ଭିତରକନିକା ଜାତୀୟ ଉଦ୍ୟାନ)
Sunrise at Bhitarkanika National Park
Map showing the location of Bhitarkanika National Park Odisha
Map showing the location of Bhitarkanika National Park Odisha
LocationKendrapara district, Odisha
Nearest cityChandbali
Coordinates20°45′N 87°0′E / 20.750°N 87.000°E / 20.750; 87.000
Area145 km2 (56 sq mi)
Established16 September 1998
Governing bodyMinistry of Environment and Forests, Government of India

Bhitarkanika National Park is a 145 km2 (56 sq mi) large national park in northeast Kendrapara district in Odisha in eastern India. It was designated on 16 September 1998 and obtained the status of a Ramsar site on 19 August 2002. The area is also been designated as the second Ramsar site of the State after the Chilika Lake. It is surrounded by Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, which spread over 672 km2 (259 sq mi). Gahirmatha Beach and Marine Sanctuary are to the east, separating the swamp region and mangroves from the Bay of Bengal. The national park and wildlife sanctuary is inundated by the rivers Brahmani, Baitarani, Dhamra, and Pathsala. It hosts many mangrove species, and is the second largest mangrove ecosystem in India.

The national park is home to Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), Indian python, king cobra, black ibis, darters and many other species of flora and fauna.[1]



Mangroves are salt-tolerant, complex, and dynamic plants that occur in tropical and subtropical intertidal regions. They are adapted to the rising and lowering of tides throughout the day, with roots designed like “stilts”, enabling the plant and its leaves to photosynthesis adequately without being submerged. They have also evolved to tolerate fluctuating salinity levels throughout the day’s tides. The tall, supportive roots create baluarte hiding spots under the water for fish and small aquatic animals, and often act as fish “nurseries” for young fry to seek refuge in. Bhitarkanika is one such location of rich, vibrant mangrove ecosystem, lying in the estuarine region of Brahmani - Baitarani in the North-Eastern corner of Kendrapara district of Odisha. The area is intersected by a network of creeks with the Bay of Bengal on the East. The alley between the meandering creeks and rivers houses the second-largest mangrove ecosystem in India.

An area of 145 km² has been notified as Bhitarkanika National Park vide Notification No.19686/F in September 1998 by the government of Odisha. It has much significance for researchers surrounding ecological, geomorphological, and biological issues. The landscape contains varied environments, including mangrove swamps, rivers, creeks, estuaries, marshes, inland floodplains, forested beaches, and mudflats.

Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary was declared vide notification No.6958/FF AH on 22 April 1975 over an area of 672 km². The Sanctuary comprises vast mangrove forests, meandering rivers and creeks leading to tidal deltas - all of which provide valuable refuge to the vulnerable saltwater crocodile. The prominent floral species include Mangrove species, casuarinas, and reed grasses like the indigo bush and Arundo donax.


A crocodile is sleeping in the swamp area of Bhitarkanika national park
Spotted deer at Bhitarkanika National Park

The park is home to the saltwater crocodile, Indian python, black ibis, wild boar, rhesus monkey, chital, darter, cobra, monitor lizard. Olive ridley turtles nest on Gahirmatha and other nearby beaches. Bhitarkanika has one of the largest populations of endangered saltwater crocodile in India and is globally unique in that, 10% of the adults exceed 6 m length. Nearly 1671 saltwater crocodiles inhabit the rivers and creeks.[2] Around 3,000 saltwater crocodiles were born during 2014 annual breeding and nesting season.[3]

In 2006, Guinness World Records accepted claims of a 7.1 m (23 ft 4 in), 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) male saltwater crocodile living within Bhitarkanika National Park.[4] Due to the difficulty of trapping and measuring a large living crocodile, the accuracy of these dimensions is yet to be verified. These observations and estimations have been made by park officials over the course of ten years, from 2006 to 2016, however, regardless of the skill of the observers it cannot be compared to a verified tape measurement, especially considering the uncertainty inherent in visual size estimation in the wild.[5] According to the park report in 2006, there were 203 adults, of which 16 measured over 4.9 m (16 ft 1 in); 5 of these 5.5 to 6.1 m (18 ft 1 in to 20 ft 0 in), and 3 over 6.1 m (20 ft 0 in), as well as the preserved skeleton of a 6.0 m (19 ft 8 in) specimen which died one year earlier.[6] A significant figure, since individuals over 5 m (16 ft 5 in) are considered rare,[7] making the Bhitarkanika Park a suitable habitat for large individuals. The most recently published official park report shows an increase of adult crocodiles to 308 individuals, as well as a steady increase over the years.[8][9] In the future, if conservation efforts pay off, these large individuals could be more common.[10]

Per the 2014 survey of mammals, the first of its kind to be undertaken in the forest and wetland sites of the park; 1,872 spotted deer and 1,213 wild boar have made the forest areas their home. The census breakup of other mammals is monkeys: 1,522, jackals: 305, common langur: 39, otter: 38, sambar deer: 17, jungle cat: 11, fox: 10, Mongoose: 7, wolf: 7, and fishing cats: 12.[11]

Avifauna includes 320 species, including eight kingfisher species. Birds such as Asian open bill, cormorants, darters, black ibis, and egrets are frequently seen in the park. Every year close to 120,000 winter visitors from abroad for wintering and 80,000 resident birds from different parts of India arrive for nesting during the monsoon season.[12]

In 2023, 179 Mangrove pittas were recorded.[13]


The white crocodile of Bhitakanika National Park

It is a well-known place to observe the giant saltwater crocodile, some growing to 23 feet in length, along with other semi-aquatic reptiles like the Asian water monitor, and numerous snakes. Spotted axis deer (chital) and Eurasian wild boar are abundant in the park and can be spotted at all the major sites. Eight varieties of kingfisher are found here and can be found along the many creeks and riverine systems within the park.

The boat ride from Khola to Dangmal is quite popular, being that Khola is one of the gateways into the park. This route travels along a man-made creek as it passes through dense mangrove forests, providing a glimpse into the estuarine ecosystem and its wealth of fauna. The best time to travel through this creek is early morning or before sunset.

Bhitarkanika has a very rich historical and cultural past. It used to be the hunting grounds of the erstwhile King of Kanika. The hunting towers and artificial watering holes can be seen at many places, including Bhitarkanika Trail and at Dangmal. It is also the home of medieval Hindu temples, found dotted throughout the sanctuary, yet the major attraction remains the wildlife.


  1. ^ "Bhitarkanika National Park, Kendrapara". 2023. Retrieved 2023-06-12.
  2. ^ "WWF India - Bhitarkanika Mangroves". Archived from the original on 2010-02-24. Retrieved 2010-04-09. Crocodiles in Bhitarakanika]
  3. ^ "Increased number of croc hatchlings in Bhitarkanika". Business Standard India. Business Standard. Press Trust of India. 26 August 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  4. ^ Mishra, Braja Kishore (14 June 2006). "World's Largest Reptile Found in India". Archived from the original on 8 January 2008.
  5. ^ Bayliss, P. (1987). Survey methods and monitoring within crocodile management programmes. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton, pages 157–175
  6. ^ "Bhitarkanika is home to the largest Crocodiles in the world". Retrieved 2015-06-03.
  7. ^ Britton, Adam. "Crocodylus porosus (Schneider, 1801)". The Crocodilian Species List. Archived from the original on 8 January 2006.
  8. ^ "Rise in estuarine crocodile populations in Bhitarkanika, Odisha". Zee News. 15 January 2015. Retrieved 2015-06-03.
  9. ^ "Crocodile".
  10. ^ Grigg, G., & Kirshner, D. (2015). Biology and Evolution of Crocodylians. CSIRO PUBLISHING.
  11. ^ "3000 spotted deer and wild boars in Bhitarkanika". Zee News. 16 September 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  12. ^ "Migratory Birds arrive at Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha". IANS. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  13. ^ "Bhitarkanika home to 179 Mangrove Pitta birds". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 20 April 2023.

External links[edit]

Media related to Bhitarkanika National Park at Wikimedia Commons