Conservation is this forester’s middle name, ‘crocodile’ his last
Ahmedabad Newline - By Sibte Husain Bukhari
Having rescued over 500 crocs, Dhanjibhai Gohel is known as Dhanjibhai ‘Magarwala’
Sasan (Gir), June 24: In Sasan, Dhanjibhai’s name is uttered in the same breath as the Forest Department’s crocodile breeding centre’s. Having rescued over 500 crocs in his two-and-a-half-decade-long career with the forest department, crocodile conservation has become Dhanjibhai’s ‘middle’ or more accurately, his ‘last name’. For, from Dhanjibhai Gohel, he’s now well known in Sasan as Dhanjibhai ‘Magarwala’.
Dhanjibhai’s association with the crocodile breeding centre began in 1977. “In the early 70s, reptiles like Mars crocodiles, salt water crocodiles and alligators were found to be fast disappearing from Saurashtra region. They were included in the endangered species list. With a view to conserve the species, the breeding centre was set up in 1977. Dhanjibhai has been with the centre since then,” says a forest official.
News of a stranded crocodile always has Dhanjibhai rushing to its rescue. “I overpower the reptile by first clutching its mouth and then its tail. After that I put it in a gunny bag, which I tie up with a rope. The crocodile is then released in a lake or a water body,” says Dhanjibhai.
Now, the estimated crocodile population stands at 2,000. “Most crocodiles have been released in big dams like Kamleshwar, Rawal, Shingoda and Machhundri. More than 1,000 have been accommodated in Kamleshwar dam alone,” a forester adds.
Sasan’s ‘Steve Irwin’ claims to have bred 1,500 crocodile at the breeding centre. “A crocodile is kept at the breeding centre till it is eight years old and grows to about 1 m in size. After that it is released in dams or is sent to zoos,” Dhanjibhai says. Conservator to foresters, he says he enjoys his role of a guide to students. “Students come here and quiz me relentlessly on crocodiles and their behaviour,” he says.
Dhanjibhai shrugs off questions on the fear factor with: “Pani man rehvu ane magarmachh thi ver? Na chale (If you want to stay in water, then you can’t take the crocodile for a foe).”