Journal of Threatened Taxa | | 26 December 2017 | 9(12): 11016–11024





Review and analysis of human and Mugger Crocodile conflict in Gujarat, India from 1960 to 2013



Raju Vyas 1 & Colin Stevenson 2



1 505, Krishnadeep Tower, Mission Road, Fatehgunj, Vadodara, Gujarat 390002, India

2 Crocodile of the World, Burford Road, Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, OX18 3NX, United Kingdom

1 (corresponding author), 2






Editor: B.C. Choudhury, Wildlife Trust of India, Noida, India. Date of publication: 26 December 2017 (online & print)


Manuscript details: Ms # 3790 | Received 10 September 2017 | Finally accepted 30 November 2017


Citation: Vyas, R. & C. Stevenson (2017). Review and analysis of human and Mugger Crocodile conflict in Gujarat, India from 1960 to 2013. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(12): 11016–11024;


Copyright: © Vyas & Stevenson 2017. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. JoTT allows unrestricted use of this article in any medium, reproduction and distribution by providing adequate credit to the authors and the source of publication.


Funding: Self-funded.

Competing interests: The author declares no competing interests.


Author Details: Dr. Raju Vyas is now retired after 30+ years of service as a Zoo Inspector, at the Sayaji Baug Zoo, Vadodara, India. Based in Vadodara City, his long-term research has focused on monitoring crocodiles and their habitat as well as issues of human-crocodile conflicts for more than 25 years. Presently he is the Regional Vice Chair of the IUCN/SSC Crocodile Specialist Group (South Asia and Iran), and member of various IUCN/SSC’s Specialist Group. Mr. Colin Stevenson is presently Head of Education for the UKs, where his is working on a number of research project. He is currently editing the revised Action Plan for crocodiles for the IUCN/SSC Crocodile Specialist Group, and compiling the species account for Gavialis gangeticus.


Author Contribution: RV visit the attack site, collects relevant information from victims & victim’s family members and preparation of pictographs and images. CS analyzed and concludes the data.


Acknowledgements: First author (RV) is thankful to the staff of the Fire brigade and Gujarat State Forest Department for helping me in various aspects of the collection of HCC data. We are thankful to the all Volunteers of Gujarat Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to the Animals (GSPCA), Vadodara Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to the Animals (VSPCA) and Crocodile Group of Vadodara for providing information of rescued animals. Thanks are also to the State Wildlife Worden, Gujarat and Conservator of Forest, Social Forestry Division, Vadodara, for supports and help.







Abstract: Human-Crocodile conflict (HCC) occurs to varying degrees around the World, and with a number of crocodilian species (CrocBITE 2013). The Mugger or Marsh Crocodile Crocodylus palustris found in Gujarat State is the crocodilian species responsible for conflict with local people. This paper is a compilation of HCC occurring in various parts of Gujarat from 1960 to 2013. A total of 64 crocodile attacks were recorded: 44 (24 fatal & 20 non-fatal) on males, and 20 (9 fatal & 11 non-fatal) on females. By region 52 HCC were recorded in central Gujarat; five in Saurashtra, four in the northern region and three in Kutch; no crocodile attacks were recorded in southern Gujarat. Of the two major river systems in central Gujarat, 41 attacks occurred within the Vishwamitri-Dhadhar River System and 11 in the Narmada system. Most crocodile attacks happened between the months of April and September, peaking in May with 14 attacks. These months are the peak breeding season for the species in Gujarat. The most obvious contributors to HCC are lack of basic facilities in rural areas, poverty, illiteracy and the presence of adult animals close to human settlements and activities. Other contributing factors are lack of preventive measures by the forest department, absence of protocols for mugger crocodile rescue, and haphazard release of problematic animals.



Keywords: Analysis, Crocodylus palustris, Gujarat, Human-Crocodile conflict, India, Mugger, review.








Conflicts between humans and wildlife have occurred throughout man’s history (Dickman & Hazzah 2016). On all continents, in developed as well as developing countries, conflict is a growing issue, although the specific problems vary according to the particular environment and people’s way of life (Lamarque et al. 2009). Human-wildlife conflict occurs when a species threatens human lives, livelihoods or even lifestyle (Woodroffe et al. 2005). When the species of wildlife involved is endangered, there is a clear need for management plans to ensure the co-existence of the wildlife species and the local people (WPC Recommendations 20, 2003).

Human-wildlife conflict is one of the major problems facing wildlife conservation around the world (Rai et al. 2013; Agrawal et al. 2016; IUCN/SSC Human-Wildlife Task Force 2017). As human populations grow at an alarming rate, a proliferating demand for natural resources is accompanied by rapid depletion of natural habitats, and increasing encroachment into previously wild or uninhabited areas. Expanding human populations and the associated increase in demand for natural resources accelerates the depletion of natural habitats, and brings humans and wildlife into closer proximity. And given time, this proximity turns into conflict. Consequences of human-wildlife conflict can be both direct, including injury and death from encounters with dangerous animals, and indirect, including loss of crops, livestock and damaged infrastructure. We should also mention that conflict is a two-way street: just as people and property are injured or lost to wildlife, wildlife species and their habitats are of course impacted as well (normally much worse than people and property). The resultant loss of biodiversity has a negative impact on local human populations as well, particularly over the long term.

Human-crocodile conflict (HCC) has been reported in over 33 countries spanning the tropics and subtropics, and the problem probably exists in many more (Lamarque et al. 2009). There were eight species of crocodilians implicated in attacks on humans, including Alligator mississippiensis, Melanosuchus niger, Crocodylus niloticus, C. porosus, C. moreletii, C. acutus, C. mindorensis and C. palustris (Caldicott et al. 2005; CrocBITE 2013).

Gujarat State is situated in the western extent of India and is home to one of the largest populations of Mugger or Marsh crocodile (C. palustris) - the species responsible for attacks on humans within the state. The literature reveals that Vyas (1993, 2005, 2010a,b, 2012, 2013), Vijakumar (1997), Whitaker (2008) and Sideleau & Britton (2013) have studied HCC in the state. This, however, needs to be reviewed to estimate the magnitude of the crisis and identify sites and cases of conflict, to derive workable solutions for the mitigation of HCC.


First HCC in History

The most authentic note on HCC found in Indian history chronicles is from the 8th century (796 CE) on the banks of the Purna River (now Periyar) near Kaladi Village, Eranakulam District, Kerala, where an eight year old boy was attacked and was later known to be Sankara Vijayan (Mahadevan 2014).


Study Area


Gujarat State

Gujarat State is situated on the western coast of India between 22.309425 N & 72.136230 E. It is bounded by the Arabian Sea in the west, by the state of Rajasthan in the north and northeast, by Madhya Pradesh in the east and by Maharashtra in the south and southeast. The state has an international boundary and a common border with Pakistan on the northwestern fringe.

Gujarat State has an area of 196,000km2 that makes for 5.98% of the land area of the country. The state is administratively divided into 33 districts. The physical features of the state show five distinct topographic zones based upon the relief, slope and landforms, soil, drainage pattern, climatic variation and agricultural development: (1) northern Gujarat, (2) central Gujarat, (3) southern Gujarat, (4) Saurashtra and (5) Kutch (Fig. 1).

The rain is erratic in the state, therefore every decade the state faces both severe drought and flooding conditions. The rain density decreases as one travels from south to north, therefore most of the rivers in the state are seasonal, except a few larger perennial rivers like the Tapi, Narmada, Mahi and Sabarmati. People of the state depend on the village ponds, tanks and large water reservoirs for their daily requirement for water. Farms usually yield well only when there is ample rainfall.








The HCC Data was collected from various sources, including Press, TV and Electronic media, NGOs and various government agencies; forest department, hospital and public health centres, and police. All the HCC incidents were checked with locals, and the incident sites were visited, victims/victim’s relatives were interviewed along with relevant forest officials. Attempts were made to understand and interpret the situation surrounding these incidents. Croc survey and habitat analysis was carried out in and around the location sites of HCC.

All the HCC information collected, including date, location, geo-coordinates, type of water body, victim’s age, caste, gender and accident time and activities was analyzed using MS Excel. The data were plotted on a map in order to correlate the location of incidents along with the mugger population. The present updated information on HCC along with prior published information from literature on HCC was gathered and reviewed.


Analysis of attacks

Year and month of attacks: From 1960 to 2013, a total of 64 Mugger attacks were registered in the state (Appendix 1), with an average of 1.18 crocodile attacks each year. The early HCC records were found in 1960 and 1970 in Ahmedabad District, after which there were no further incidences in the state until 1991. Over the next 23 years—from 1991 to 2013—almost every year attacks have been recorded in the state. Only the years 1992, 2000, 2001 and 2002 had no HCC incidents recorded (Fig. 2). The highest incidents of HCC were observed in the year 2011 with 12 attacks, including eight fatal and four non-fatal. The attacks of Muggers were noted in all months, except the month of January. Numerous attacks were noticed in the months of April to September, and highest number of attacks was noted in the month of May with 14 incidences of attacks, especially in the pre-monsoon.

Fatal and non-fatal: Within a 54-year span, a total of 64 crocodile attacks occurred in the state, of which 33 were fatal and 31 were non-fatal but 12.90% of victims are suffering from permanent disability. A total of 44 attacks (24 fatal and 20 non-fatal) were recorded on males and 20 attacks on females (9 fatal and 11 non-fatal), showing these attacks to be biased towards males.

Regions: The highest numbers of HCC incidents were recorded in central Gujarat with 52 attacks including 28 fatal and 24 non-fatal. The second highest was recorded in Saurashtra region with five attacks, and lowest number of crocodile attacks was recorded in the Kutch area with three attacks. No crocodile attacks were recorded in southern Gujarat (Table 1).

Habitat and HCC: A total of 68.75% (44) of attacks occurred in flowing water (noted as riverine habitat) and 31.25% (20) attacks in stagnant-waters-various ponds, village tanks and lakes in the state. Of a total of 41 attacks, 33 occurred in Vishwamitri-Dhadhar River basin area, of which 27 attack victims were male and the remaining 14 were females. This was followed by 11 attacks in the River basin areas of Narmada, including seven male victims and four females victims. Both the river basin areas are a part of central Gujarat.

Activity and HCC: Mugger attacks occurred on humans while they were engaged in various activities, either directly in water bodies or on the edge of the water bodies (Table 2). Washing is the activity most at risk of attack, with 15 attacks recorded. This is followed by crossing water bodies with 13 attacks, and bathing with 11 attacks. Herding livestock and fishing both recorded eight attacks, and there were four attacks recorded on children and boys whilst playing at the edge of the water. Singular incidents were recorded while the victims were involved in sand and water collection, loitering, sleeping on the banks and water pumping.

Age groups: The data shows that all age groups are at risk of mugger attacks, from 9-year-olds to 64-year-olds (Table 3). The gender-wise category and croc attacks indicate that male victim ages ranged from nine years to 52 years, while female victim ages ranged from nine years to 64 years. The highest percentage of victims (at 35.93 %) belonged to the 21–30 year age group.

Nuisance animal trapping: There were six cases where the culprit Muggers/probable culprit Muggers were trapped from six different location sites. After serious attacks on humans, the locals demanded the removal of these animals. Therefore the state forest department trapped these animals with the help of zoo staff and volunteers from local NGOs (Table 4). In three cases these large, trapped muggers were kept in the zoo and not released back into the wild. But in the later three cases from the location sites of Tranj (Matar, Kheda District), Kodarvaya (Waghodia, Vadodara Districts) and Jambuva (Vadodara City), the trapped animals were released back into the wild at Pariaj, Kheda (1) and Narmada Dam (2), respectively.




















A total of 64 HCC incidents were recorded within a 54-year span, an average of 1.18 crocodile attacks per year in the state. This seems quite negligible in magnitude and certainly less serious than other wildlife-human conflicts, especially snakebite records in the state (See: Mohapatra et al. 2011). The trends of HCC data show a gradual increase in the number of incidences over the last few years within the state (see: Fig. 2) and particularly the areas of central Gujarat, from the two river basin areas, namely the Vishwamitri-Dhadhar and Narmada Rivers.

The highest number of HCC i.e., 41(64%) was recorded from the River Basin areas of Vishwamitri-Dhadhar. Most of the incidents occurred when the people were engaged in some domestic activities in/ near the water bodies, such as washing (15), crossing the river/water body (13) and bathing (10). The victims were socio-economically disadvantaged and poor, and depended on water bodies for hygiene and health due to the lack of basic facilities, especially in remote rural areas of the state.

Most of the attacks observed were between the months of April to August, which coincides with the breeding season of the species. Usually, in the state, female muggers nest during the months of April and May and hatchlings emerge in the month of August. April and May is the nesting and nest guarding period followed by two months’ incubation in June–July. It is reasonable to suggest that this is a key factor in aggressive mugger croc encounters, especially females. Female Muggers defend their nests against intruders, including humans, and guard the territory vigilantly.

Overall habitat survey and assessment analysis from the earlier and recent studies shows an increasing population of muggers in the state, especially in the region of central Gujarat. A total of 430 Muggers were counted during the 1995–96 survey from the entire state (Vijaykumar 1997) and during last crocodile surveys 2012 there were 334 crocodiles counted from only three districts (Kheda, Anand and Vadodara) (Vyas 2013). A recent estimate shows there are about 1,500 muggers inhabiting the various water bodies and rivers of the state (Table 5). The increasing numbers of crocodiles, including larger-sized crocodiles, is resulting in more frequent interactions with humans. Earlier, Andau et al. (2004) concluded similarly with the Saltwater Crocodile (C. porosus) that the increasing attacks in Sabah, Malaysia, were a result of increasing numbers of crocodiles. Glasgow (1991) emphasizes the relationship of increasing numbers of American Alligators and an expanding human population in Louisiana in the 1970s, resulting in increased interactions with alligators.

Increased HCC in the state is not merely a result of one reason or factor but it is an outcome of multiple factors arising in the state during the last decade. These include: (i) increasing Mugger Crocodile population, (ii) socio-economic issues, (iii) lack of management plan for the crocodile population. The most notable causes behind the conflicts in Gujarat are the Mugger population increasing within particular areas, along with larger individuals found in human-dominated areas. Other factors include poverty, illiteracy and also the social setup of the society (irreverent attitude towards nature), contributing to the gravity of this issue.

During the last decade, there were several instances where Muggers were found in human habitations (Vyas & Bhatt 2004; Vyas & Bhavsar 2009) and agricultural fields after the monsoons. These stray animals were rescued by staff of the local fire-brigade department, volunteers of NGOs and some individuals. In a few cases, these animals were rescued by staff from the State Forest Department. These rescued muggers were then released into convenient nearby locations by the local forest staff, with little experience or understanding of accepted procedures for trans locating crocodiles, or the need to monitor these released animals (see IUCN/SSC 2013). The best example is observed in Vadodara City, where over the last 10 years about 365 variously-sized crocodiles from 25–390 cm TL (total body length) were rescued from the city itself (Fig. 3). These rescued crocodiles were released at a number of locations, including Ajwa Sarovar, Narmada Dam, or the main canal of Narmada (Image 1), and within River Vishwamitri itself (either in upper or in lower riverside) without tracking their original location or determining which release site would be most suitable for the individual, so as to avoid negative consequences. These problem animals might return or create problems at the release site. The main issue is that we have no way of knowing the movements, survival, or conflict consequences of these animals.

The increase in HCC in the last few years; especially in Central Gujarat is also caused by the scarcity foods faced by the species, especially in the lower stream areas of River Vishwamitri-Dhadhar and the developmental region of Narmada Canal Network (also there is a government policy that all water bodies be connected to this canal network). This large canal network provides for easy movement of muggers for migration from one water body to another. There are several examples where the sub-adult muggers were absent from the water body in the recent past due to migration through the canal network (Image 2) (Vyas 2008; Vyas & Basu 2008; Vyas et al. 2012).

Another indirect factor responsible for the HCC in the state is the “mugger rescue and release practice” deployed by the authority. Lack of experts in the Forest Department and absence of protocols for the rescue, release and translocation of problem animals have totally failed the mitigation of HCC. It is suggested that the authority should comply with scientific guidelines in order to tackle this task. Present estimation of Mugger population and rising numbers of HCC since the last decade is a clear signal and a warning call, demanding a new management plan and strategies to manage the muggers of the state. There is a vital need to develop species-specific management and education awareness programs in Gujarat State to protect both people and crocodiles from this escalating conflict. In such critical situations of wildlife and human conflicts, poor management results in the loss of wildlife forever.





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