Saltwater crocodiles from the Sundarbans are entering adjacent localities in rising numbers, raising fear among residents and putting both humans and animals at risk.
The first crocodile intrusion in the region this year was recorded on 8 January at Kalekhar village of Bagerhat, according to Forest Department officials.
"We have rescued some 10 crocodiles from different localities in the region this year," said Howladar Azad Kabir, officer-in-charge of Karamjal Wildlife Breeding Center in Chandpai range of East Sundarbans.
He added that the crocodiles were later released to the deep Sundarbans.
According to locals, sometimes crocodiles are seen in fish enclosures, ponds, or in rivers and canals along the coast.
The unusual behaviour from these animals, which are native to saltwater habitats and brackish wetlands, comes after the forest department released 100 crocodiles in four ranges of the Sundarbans last December on the occasion of the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The crocodiles, bred at the Karamjal Wildlife Breeding Center, were released after a survey in the 2019-20 fiscal year, which found that there were only about 200 crocodiles across 1,874 sq km of water areas of the Sundarbans.
"The number of crocodiles in the Sundarbans has been increasing continuously for the last 5 years. Due to this, some crocodiles are moving into coastal river channels. Sometimes they get stuck in fishermen's nets," said Abu Naser Mohsin Hossain, the Forest Department's divisional forest officer for the Sundarbans.
"Each wild animal has a territory. In the Sundarbans, one crocodile rules each area. When another crocodile enters there, a fight breaks out between them," said Howladar Azad Kabir, further explaining why the reptiles might be leaving their habitats.
He also said it is not necessary that crocodiles will move onto localities after fighting with fellow crocodiles.
"Crocodiles are not the only animals with nature to rule the Sundarbans. The same nature is present in tigers and monkeys as well," he said.
Currently, the Forest Department has confirmed that a crocodile is staying in the Ghangrail River in Khulna.
According to locals, this is the first crocodile to reside in the river in 80 years.
Mofizur Rahman Chowdhury, a fisheries expert at the Khulna office of the Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Department, said, "At present, freshwater crocodiles have completely disappeared from Bangladesh. The crocodile that came to the Ghangrail River is a saltwater crocodile from the Sundarbans."
"The crocodile could not be caught as it was in the river. If caught, he will be taken to the Sundarbans and released," he added.