Published On: Sun, May 19th, 2013

‘Neglected’ gharials awaiting corrective measures, officials unmoved

Lucknow: Looks are deceptive and this holds true for Gharial, a long snouted species of crocodile found in India. It is solely a fish eater and does not attack humans or wild animals. And probably this gentle habit is proving to be a bane for this huge creature that had undertaken a long journey of revival and now again fighting a battle for its survival.

Experts are of the view that if corrective measures are initiated, time is not far away when this species would cease to exist in this sanctuary

Experts are of the view that if corrective measures are not initiated, time is not far away when this species would cease to exist in this sanctuary

In early 70’s it was observed that its number was dwindling fast and the species was on the verge of extinction. Sensing the urgency for saving this species from extinction, a rear and release programme was initiated by the Uttar Pradesh forest department. Eggs collected from wild were artificially incubated in hatcheries.

During the last several decades around 5,000 gharials reared in hatcheries of the forest department have been released in the wild but sadly only around 200 breeding adults have survived. And this situation can well be described as coming back to square one.

Experts are of the firm view that poor monitoring coupled with improper evaluation of work carried out on this front led to a situation where the gharial population is back to the figures of 70’s.

“Major threat to this species is illegal mining, fish poaching and unabated riverside cultivation,” said wildlife expert and former member of Uttar Pradesh Wildlife Board, Dr Rakesh Tomar.

At present apart from Chambal river, only Girwa river in Katerniaghat wildlife sanctuary of Uttar Pradesh and Ramganga river in Corbett National Park in Uttrakhand has a viable breeding population of gharial. Katerniaghat has a river section of only 5 km length forming prime habitat for gharial.

It is worth mentioning here that in Chambal wildlife sanctuary, a worst case scenario exists. Barely a few years back several gharials were found dead in this sanctuary. Experts are of the view that if corrective measures are not initiated, time is not far away when this species would cease to exist in this sanctuary.

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