The long-snouted Gharials which are commonly found in the northern Indian subcontinent were edge of making it to the extinct category but made an impressive comeback in Chambal River. These creatures are classified as ‘critically endangered species. And with effective government policy under Wild Life Protection, the National Chambal Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh has made long-snouted Gharial comeback in Chambal river.
About the Gharials of Chambal
The Gharial is a fish-eating crocodile and is among the longest of all the living crocodiles. They have a distinct feature at the end of their snout, which resembles an earthenware pot known as ‘ghara’ and hence they are named as ‘Gharial.’ The Gharials are famous for catching fishes with their long, thin snouted nose and 110 interlocking and strong teeth. The females are usually 8 ft. – 14 ft. and the matured males are generally 9 ft. – 19 ft.
Gharials love to live in the water but come out of it only for basking and building nests on the moist sandbanks where they can hatch their eggs. The adult female every year lay around 20-95 eggs.
Gharials are old animals and were even there in Indus Valley. The people of the valley regarded the animal as mystical and used some of its body parts as ingredients of much useful indigenous medicine.
Claimed as ‘Critically Endangered’
The fish-eating Gharials due to their diminishing number were classified as ‘critically endangered,’ by IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) in 2007. Their number has increased from 905 in 2012 to 1,896 in 2019. In the month of June and July of last year more than 5,000 Gharials were born at the National Chambal Sanctuary, located on the borders of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. Around 4,141 Gharials were hatched from eggs and 1,202 were born with nested methods.
Threats to their Existence
IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) says that the threats on the living and existing Gharials are known, continuous and irreversible. The various extension activities and water control methods increased the disturbances by human beings on the river banks.
The various reasons like loss of habitat by siltation, sand mining and conversion to agriculture, barrages, dams, irrigation canals, artificial embankments depletion of fish resources and detrimental fishing methods continue to threaten the population of this very unique species.
Around 111 Gharials were found dead in the Chambal River between December 2007 and March 2008 which was suspected because of the illegal use of fishing traps and nets but later the post-mortem reports revealed the presence of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, which together with stomach ulcers and protozoan parasites resulted in a disease known as necropsies, which ultimately caused their deaths.
As per the studies done, threats have been intensified since early 1950s, and still continue with increasing demand for river resources in International market.
Steps taken for Gharial Comebacks
The Gharial is listed on the CITIES Appendix 1. The Gharial is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 in India. Many breeding centres are established to remove the species from the red list.
The Chambal River is around 1,000 km long and it originates in Madhya Pradesh. With around 500 mature adults, National Chambal Sanctuary has the highest population of the long-snouted Gharials in the world. This is 77% of the global population of the species. Besides this the sanctuary also produces around 410 nests every year, which is 86% of the global total.
The sanctuary is spread within 5,500 km of area which includes three states Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The sanctuary also releases the mugger crocodiles into the river every year. Thus, the steps taken for the increase in the number of Gharials during the last year are appreciable and Chambal Sanctuary deserves all the credits. Hope the species is soon unmarked as ‘endangered.’
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Author: Anjali Lavania
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