The Plight of the Indian Gharial

Wednesday, March 15, 2017posted by Bruce 3:31 PM

A rare crocodilian under threat

Male gharial with fishnetweb

A male gharial with fishnet wrapped around it’s snout…!

I have just returned from a crocodile sanctuary in Northeast India where the common mugger and the rare gharial are found in fair numbers. The Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of 400 square kilometers and was established in 1975. The protected area is in the Upper Gangetic plain situated in Uttar Pradesh State in Northeast India

Male gharial with fishnet2

A close-up of the male gharial with fishnet…!

The Katerniaghat Forest provides strategic connectivity between tiger habitats of Dudhwa and Kishanpur in India and the Bardia National Park in Nepal. Its fragile Terai ecosystem comprises a mosaic of sal and teak forests, lush grasslands, numerous swamps and wetlands. It is home to a number of endangered species including the gharial, tiger, rhino, Gangetic dolphin, swamp deer, hispid hare, Bengal florican, the white-backed and long-billed vultures. 

Gharial with fishnet2web

A female gharial with fishnet…red-whistling ducks in the back…!

One of the best places in the world for seeing the gharial in its natural habitat is the Girwa River, where it is found sympatric with the mugger crocodile. The population of gharials in this stretch was one of the three that were still breeding, when the project to conserve this reptile from the verge of extinction was initiated in 1975. However, between the years of 2001 and 2005, almost all the gharial nests were raided by tribals who consider them a delicacy.

Gharial with fishnet1web

Another female gharial with fishnet…!

The sanctuary is under the Indian Forest Department’s responsibility, and breeding of the gharial is being carried out at the station next to the lake. This crocodilian was almost wiped out in India by poachers for the crocodile skin trade but was saved by concerted efforts not to loose this important crocodile species. They are breeding quite well here and have been released into the lake. There are about 200 gharial surviving with programs for future reintroduction.

Breeding gharial

A young gharial in the breeding center…!

Fishing is strictly prohibited but unfortunately, illegal fishing with nets is being carried out by local and Nepalese fisherman, probably at night when there are no patrolling boats around. I photographed quite a few gharials with fishnets wrapped around their snouts. This is of course is unacceptable and the Forest Department at Katarniaghat needs to abduct any people involved in these activities.

Gharial, mugger and whistling ducks

Gharials, mugger and whistling ducks…!

The gharials need to be captured and this nylon net material removed. It is the duty of the FD to see that these creatures live their life in harmony without any harm coming to them.

 



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