Delightful Story Of Whistling At Crocodiles And Increase In Tourism

The village of Insuli in Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra has been experiencing a bit of ‘magic’ lately. While this unforeseen activity is amusing, it is also helping in protecting the wildlife of the village. The magician here is resident Ramchandar Charatkar. He has a wonderful chemistry built with crocodiles! He has a special wolf whistle which the crocodiles can understand and he tends to send signals to them through it. These crocodiles are from the Tiracol river. As his whistling continues, about a dozen crocodiles swim close to the bank of the river peacefully. By taking care of these reptiles, he is teaching us a big lesson about co-existence with the animals.

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The Indian pied piper 

Ramchandar Charatkar is a 38-year-old poultry trader and has done his graduation in mathematics. His relationship with the reptiles started when he spotted two babies near the river. Instead of getting scared, he started feeding them. Slowly, the babies grew and so did the numbers. But these crocodiles started forming an unsaid relationship with Charatkar.

Crocodiles are ‘trainable’ creatures, according to Soham Mukherjee, a herpetologist. “Crocodiles responding to this Konkan villager’s whistles is a case of behavioural conditioning. Crocodiles have also been trained to follow at least 25 target behaviours using operant conditioning though such things are more practised in the west,” says Mukherjee, who was earlier assistant curator at Madras Crocodile Bank, in an interview with TOI.

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Charatkar has been feeding chicken meat to the crocodiles for over a decade. He says that there must be close to 25 crocodiles in the river presently. When he throws a dead chicken, the crocodiles grab it, rip it apart and enjoy the meal. The animal lover notices that a lot of meat goes into the garbage every day. He saves these leftovers and ensures that his reptile friends don’t sleep hungry. He feeds the crocodiles twice a week.

A special bond!

There is no fear of being attacked by these crocodiles. It is almost as if they recognize Charatkar as their friend and he responds in a similar manner. They haven’t harmed anyone in the village yet. Charatkar’s wife, Riya, also says that 'there is literally nothing to be scared of'.

Due to this phenomenon, Insuli has started attracting tourists in good numbers which never happened before. The Deputy Conservator of Forests of Sindhudurg district says that he is planning to promote the place as a ‘Magar Darshan’ point. The idea is to set up a watchtower on the banks of the river where telescopes will be provided to visitors.

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This rather magical activity has made Charatkar really popular among the tourists. They keep asking him to whistle and call the crocodiles because they just can’t believe what they have heard. Some go a step ahead and try to whistle like Charatkar hoping to draw the crocodiles.

“They return disappointed. It doesn’t work like that. I have a bonding with them and it’s straight from the heart,” Charatkar smiles and says to TOI.


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