Sunday 25 October 2020

Gharials are returning to Indian rivers and it's a victory for environment

As many as 40 gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) were released in the Ghaghara river by the Bahraich forest division of Uttar Pradesh in the first week of May, amid the nationwide lockdown due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The animals were brought from the Kukrail Gharial Rehabilitation Centre in Lucknow after being tagged.


Gharial surge in Gandak, Ghaghara

Only a month later, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), said the the Gandak River, which flows into Bihar from Nepal registered successful breeding of the endangered gharials for three consecutive years.  

The birth of 116 gharials on the Gandak River, that covers over 320 km in the state, made it an occasion for celebration earlier this year in June.   

Critically endangered species 

Gharials are critically endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Species. The species is also listed under Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. TSA is involved in various conservation works across the country.  

“The Ghaghara acts as an important aquatic corridor for gharials in Uttar Pradesh. The river is a major left bank tributary of the Ganges. This year, eight males and 32 females were released,” Shailendra Singh, who heads the TSA India, which supported the entire exercise, said.  

About 250 gharials have been released in the Ghaghara since 2014 according to Singh, barring 2017-2018.   And now, there seems to be a surge which is an occasion for celebration for wildlife enthusiasts. 

Samir Kumar Sinha, deputy director of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) said, "We were really happy to see little gharials coming out from under the sand. In March, we had carried out a survey and the number came to 260, now it will grow further."

Dainik Bhaskar

“There was a time when gharials were widespread across the Indian subcontinent, but the number dropped alarmingly by 2006 to put them under the endangered list,” he added.  

In early April, three nests with 94 eggs of the fish-eating crocodiles were located and shifted to a safe place away from the bank to protect against the erosion.

Watchers looked after nests till eggs hatched 

Amid the coronavirus lockdown, a team of four local watchers looked after the nest till the eggs successfully hatched into 86 gharials on June 14 after 65-70 days of incubation.

“The hatchlings (gharial babies) were released in the river exactly where the nests were located first. The baby hatchlings were united with the mother,” said Sinha.

One nest in the same area, which remained undetected by the team, also hatched with 30 more babies. So, 116 gharial babies were successfully added to the Gandak River.

(Source: India Times)

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