Crocodiles at world's tallest statue moved for seaplane service

About 300 reptiles will be removed to allow seaplanes to bring tourists to lake near Statue of Unity.

    A view of the Statue of Unity at Kevadiya Colony in Narmada district of Gujarat State [AP/Ajit Solanki]
    A view of the Statue of Unity at Kevadiya Colony in Narmada district of Gujarat State [AP/Ajit Solanki]

    Indian foresters have begun relocating about 300 crocodiles to allow a seaplane service for visitors to the world's tallest statue, the newly erected 182-metre Statue of Unity.

    The reptiles, the largest around three metres, are being lured into metal cages and moved elsewhere in India's western state of Gujarat on the back of pick-up trucks. 

    So far, about a dozen had been extracted "from dyke number three of the reservoir which has been identified as a probable site for the seaplane jetty," a source told the AFP on Friday. 

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    The mugger crocodiles, Crocodylus palustris, in the Narmada fall under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, which covers the most endangered species.

    Dr Jitendra Gavali, director of the Community Science Centre, called the transfer of reptiles against the principles of the Protection Act, warning that the crocodiles may be harmed, local media reported. 

    Local forestry official Anuradha Sahu said the instruction had come from the state government "for safety reasons as the tourist influx has increased" to the riverside edifice. 

    Bittu Sahgal, editor of wildlife magazine Sanctuary Asia, criticised the moving of the endangered crocodiles, tweeting: "Have we collectively lost our minds?"

    The statue of independence hero Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a key independence leader being promoted as a national icon in the ruling party's campaign before next year's general elections, is more than twice the size of the Statue of Liberty. It was completed last October at a cost of $430m. 

    The statue is located in a remote stretch in Narmada district, with the nearest city Vadodora being about 100km away and Gujarat's main city, Ahmedabad, is more than 200km away.

    There are no trains, and most tourists take a bus on a four-lane highway from Vadodora to reach the landmark.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies