The Gharial - Our river guardian - A factsheet prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Forests

This factsheet on the Gharial is prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF). The Gharial is a river crocodile endemic to the Indian sub-continent.

 It was found in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Bhutan, but is now extinct in these countries. Today, it is seen in a few places in Nepal. In India the major population of Gharials is found in the Girwa and Chambal rivers. It faces many threats to its survival which include fishing, linking of rivers, large irrigation canals etc. This brochure is an attempt to provide information on this specie's. There are also suggestions as to the direction the efforts for the protection of the Gharial should take.

The Gharial is touted to be the most unique of crocodiles because it has evolved into a river inhabiting fish eater. The reason this crocodile is called Gharial is because of the bulbous ‘ghara’ on the tip of the male snout. In Hindu mythology, it is the vehicle of the goddess Ganga and of the water god Varuna. These animals nest between March and May. The females lay 60 eggs and these hatch in 90 days.

The Gharial is listed in the IUCN Red List of endangered species. The survival of this animal is threatened by -

  1. Habitat alteration and destruction: This includes sand mining, riverside agriculture, cattle grazing, building of dams etc.
  2. Prey depletion: Construction of dams and diversion of rivers is a big reason for prey depletion, another factor is over fishing.
  3. Direct mortality: Caused by their entanglement in fishing nets which results in drowning. Destruction of nests and eggs is another cause.
  4. Pollution and siltation: Pollution causes poisoning of food and water that kills these creatures.
  5. Hunting: This animal was killed for its skin and for medicinal purposes.

The Gharial population had plummeted to less than 200 in 1976. It was then that the Government of India brought it under Schedule I of the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972. It also created the Project Crocodile with the support of United Nations Development Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization. The project included intensive captive rearing and breeding to restock Gharial habitats.

The last portion of the brochure provides a list of ways that the Gharial can be saved; these include rejuvinating rivers and including local communities in conservation efforts.

The MOEF by bringing out an information brochure on the endangered Gharial has added another weapon to protect this animal.

Download the document here:

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