13 December 2010

Gharials Reclaiming River?

 © Sanjib Chaudhary
Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), Critically Endangered

The Gharial, a critically endangered crocodilian, survives only in fragmented habitats throughout India and Nepal. In the past, it also occupied rivers in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Myanmar. It's current population is thought to be a mere 200 individuals.

Good news then, that it has recently been seen in places where it hasn't been for 40 years or more--the Hooghly District (near Kolkata) on the Ganges River in India.

iREBEL, a conservation organization, and Innovative India Tourism Pvt. Ltd, teamed up with other partners to conduct surveys in the area after hearing Gharials had been sighted there. They discovered a viable breeding population in a 170 km stretch of the river.

The group hopes to establish reserves along the river to protect the Gharials, as well as Gangetic Dolphins and other species living in the area, as many threats still face these nearly extinct and beautiful crocodilians.

The main threats to Gharials are outlined in a report published by the group:

1. Fishing – especially with gill nets and set nets. Juvenile gharials often become entangled and die.
2. Destruction of sandbanks for use in brick factories
3. Disturbance by humans while basking in the sun
4. Industrial pollution
5. Perception that gharials are man-eaters like other crocodiles

If you want to help, you can support the gharials through eco-tourism. You can sign up for wildlife tours with iREBELInnovative India Tourism Pvt. Ltd, or WWF-India, or even volunteer to help with their work.

You can also support the Gharials through the Gharial Conservation Alliance.