Posts Tagged ‘mugger crocodile’

The Plight of the Indian Gharial

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 posted 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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A trip to Chambal River in Agra, India

Tuesday, April 19, 2016 posted by Bruce 8:25 AM

Gharial crocodiles and the Sarus crane were the main objective…!

This was to be my last safari on this month long trip to India. The site is situated in Agra, east of Delhi where the famous Taj Mahal is located.

Gharial crocodile by the Chambal River

A female gharial regulating her body temperature early in the morning by the Chambal River in Agra…!

The Chambal River has some very interesting creatures and the main ones I was after were the gharial (thin-jawed fish eating crocodile) and the Sarus crane (the world’s tallest bird). Time was limited and I was lucky to photographed both species in one day.

Gharial crocodile by the Chambal River

Another female gharial and its tell-tale thin jaw for catching fish; they are an amazing crocodilian…!

I stayed at the Chambal Safari Hotel some 70 kilometers past the city of Agra. We left at 5am and arrived at the boat landing where a speed boat was waiting near dawn that was another 22 kilometers from the lodge.

Gharial crocodile by the Chambal River

And yet another female gharial before slipping into the Chambal River…! No males were photographed…!

Within no time at all, we bumped into gharial and I got several but they were all female. The males would slip into the river as soon as they spotted us.

Sarus cranes at Chambal River, Agra

A breeding pair of Sarus cranes feeding and dancing on Chambal; these wonderful birds mate for life…!

But I was happy to get some decent photographs and as the sun rose into the sky, it became dreadfully hot and light was very harsh so we returned to the hotel for lunch.

Sarus cranes at Chambal River, Agra

The Sarus crane is the tallest bird in the world and they are thriving very well in India at several locations….!

Other species captured were the mugger crocodile and Indian blue peafowl in full display mode. Many water birds are also found here.

Indian peafowl male in Chambal

A Indian peafowl male in full display. These birds thrive by the river and are absolutely beautiful…!

Back again at 3:30pm and we motored up the river once again. Shortly thereafter, two Sarus cranes were spotted feeding along a sandy bank. I was delighted and surprised to see how close we got to the tall birds.

Mugger crocodile by the Chambal River

A mugger or marsh crocodile basking in the morning sun. This reptile is estimated to be about 3 meters long…!

I will return in mid-March 2017 when the weather is much cooler and the crocs are a lot easier to see when they need to bask for long periods in the sun regulating their body temperature due to the very cold river. All in all, it was a quick but very satisfying trip to the Chambal River. Enjoy…!

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The Forests of Madhya Pradesh in India – Part Four

Friday, December 25, 2015 posted by Bruce 5:15 PM

Satpura National Park and Tiger Reserve

A mugger crocodile in the Denwa River of Satpura Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh, Central India. This very mature reptile is estimated to be 4-meters long..!

After leaving Pench tiger reserve in the East, a break was in need. It was a quick two-hour taxi ride straight south to the large city of Nagpur in the State of Maharashtra. I stayed overnight at a very nice hotel with foreign and Indian cuisine. After almost two weeks of local food, I was ready for some European fare that evening. The next morning, breakfast was superb.

A leopard resting in deep cover. It was difficult to get a clean shot…!

Then it was a six-hour taxi drive to Satpura National Park and Tiger Reserve in the south-central area of Madhya Pradesh State. I arrived in the late afternoon and settled in at the Denwa Backwater Escape lodge five minutes from the boat pier on the reservoir. The tiger reserve was on the opposite side of the Denwa River that was dammed some 60 kilometers down stream.

A bull gaur close to the road in the reserve. These ungulates are prey species for the tiger…!

The next morning, my naturalist Chin was at the meeting point at 5.30am sharp and 30 minutes later after formalities, we were in a boat for the three-minute trip across the lake. Landing on the opposite shore, we jumped into a Suzuki/Maruti jeep for the first morning’s safari. As we moved into the hinterland, sambar and spotted deer were seen plus glimpses of a sloth bear. Later that morning, we bumped into a large gathering of jeeps meaning a big cat was about. It took some jockeying to see a leopard sleeping in the bush. Although the sighting was neat, good photos were tough to get but I did manage to get a few acceptable ones.

Two young gaur head-butting in an ‘eye-to-eye’ confrontation…!

For the next three days, we crossed the reservoir going on jeep safari in the morning and afternoon. On the last morning, I opted for a boat safari into the lake to look for crocodiles and large wading birds and ducks. A grey heron was my first target just as the sun was peeping from behind the morning fog. Later, some woolly-neck storks plus bar-headed geese and Indian river terns were the next targets. But my main objective was to get a crocodile out of the water on its basking spot. We saw two mugger crocs but they slithered into the water before we could get close. The water-safari closed at 10am and I was running out of time.

Mugger crocodile enjoying the mid-morning sun adjusting its temperature…!

Ten minutes before the dock, we saw a huge croc basking with its mouth wide-open. We immediately turned left and headed straight for it. I started cranking my Nikon D300s with a 200-400 VRII lens on a tripod and we actually caught the reptile in a trance as it was soaking in the warmth of the morning sun. We got fairly close. Then it sensed us and got up walking a few steps while I kept on shooting, and then slipped below. Now that’s some serious luck just a mere 10 minutes from the boat dock and the end of my safari. I had just captured one of the oldest living creatures on the planet going back to the Triassic Era when crocodiles had just began to evolve some 200 million years ago and out-living the dinosaurs. It was a fitting end to my 20-day safari to the forests of Madhya Pradesh in Central India.

Asian wild dog or ‘dhole’. These creatures in a pack are the most feared of all the predators in the Indian forest…!

Conclusion: As we move into the 21st Century, many things continue to hack away at nature. Excessive tourism has had a detrimental effect in some of the parks and its wildlife. In particular, the madness that goes on when a tiger is sighted. After traveling through some seven tiger reserves so far, the phenomena of seeing other people with a ‘long-face’ has become an ever-increasingly common occurrence when no tiger had been sighted. However, this is a problem when one is sighted: most people go berserk trying to get a photo of the big cat mostly with their smart phones. This has been dramatic as talking and screaming goes on and the drivers push each other (sometimes crashing into one another) to get a shot of the striped cat. Some may disagree, but I say the tigers are now becoming smarter and avoid the big jeep-crowds that invariably build up quickly. The big cats just melt into the forest and sometimes disappear for the day. They surely walk the roads at night as their tracks can be found everywhere when on morning safari.

Excessive anything is sure to have cause and effect. Tiger tourism has become a big money business and as more hotels and lodges spring-up around the tiger reserves like mushrooms, invariably more people will be pushed into the parks to see the almighty tiger. Limitation is the only answer that works but mandates to minimize the effect on too much tourism are overlooked by most who make money at it.

And the recent scandal incriminating ‘Ustad T-24, a wonderful tiger from Ranthambore National Park and Tiger reserve by the local forest authorities has done some serious damage to the reputation of India’s wildlife conservation programs. This resident male tiger was unjustly accused of killing a forest guard and then illegally moved to a zoo where he is near death after medical teams removed mud from his stomach probably picked up from throwing meat on the dirt for him to eat. He was also paraded around as a man-eating tiger, and zoo visitation jumped more than 100%. Not a nice situation for any wild animal

At the end of the day, I did get some really great photographs of tiger, leopard, crocodile and other Indian creatures on this trip but my outlook has changed ever so slightly concerning the senseless hordes of jeeps chasing after tigers and leopards in these parks. Can they sustain an ever-increasing tourist presence, as is the case of ‘tiger tourism’ today? Only time will tell but if you want to see the big striped cat, India is still the best place to see this magnificent predator as one of Mother Nature’s greatest creatures.

I have one more trip to India planned for March-April, 2016. I will be going to a wildlife sanctuary near Corbett tiger reserve to do some camera trapping. Then it will be across country by train (in fact most of the travel this time will be by train) to the Blackbuck National Park after some beautiful antelopes, and then back across to Panna tiger reserve that lost all their tigers awhile back and was restocked from Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. Then it’s on to Pench once more. Finally, it’s up to collect my camera traps and back to Delhi for the flight back to Thailand. That’s the plan and I look forward to catch a few more species for my up-coming book on wildlife from Africa and Asia. I hope everyone has enjoyed reading about my trip to India as much as I have enjoyed seeing and photographing nature up-close.


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An Apex-Predator straight from the Triassic Era

Sunday, November 29, 2015 posted by Bruce 3:41 PM

A Mugger Crocodile in Satpura Tiger Reserve.

Mugger croc at Satpura-Nov. 2015-w

A 4-meter mugger basking in the mid-morning sun – 10 minutes before the end of my finale safari…!

After almost 20 days of solid morning and afternoon safaris on hot dusty roads in India’s tiger reserves situated in the State of Madhya Pradesh, I decided to take a boat safari offered by the park authorities on my last safari at Satpura Tiger Reserve. Arriving around 7am at the boat dock, we jumped into a speedboat and then encountered many large water birds like grey heron and woolly-necked stork, plus many other species along the shoreline of Denwa Reservoir. Eventually, a mugger crocodile Crocodylus palustris was sighted but it quickly slipped into the lake.

As the morning got hotter and time was running out, another crocodile was seen but it too slid below. About 10 minutes before closing time as we were cruising back, a big crocodilian was seen in full bask mode with it’s mouth wide open bringing it’s body temperature up. A quick left and we closed the gap, and I did not stop shooting my Nikon D300s and 200-400 VR II on a tripod. It was about 4-meters long, and eventually got up and dropped off its little basking spot.


Lifting off from it’s favorite basking spot – a magnificent prehistoric creature of nature…!

I feel fortunate to have seen and photographed this prehistoric creature that evolved from the Triassic Era some 210 million years ago. In the lake, they are very shy for the most part. This is my top capture on my trip to the land of the tiger, and I will be posting more of all the other amazing creatures I photographed when time permits.

I would like to specially thank all my friends at the Denwa Backwater Escape and Pugdundee Safaris, plus the Forest Department at Satpura Tiger Reserve for all their help and support during my visit to this wonderful place..…!

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