more than 40 gharials were found dead downstream in the Chambal river, ahead of its confluence point with the
Yamuna. Preliminary reports indicated liver cirrhosis was among the causes of the deaths, said D N S Suman, chief wildlife warden of Uttar Pradesh.
According to GSridhar, divisional forest officer, wildlife, National Chambal Sanctuary, heavy metal pollution may have caused the liver cirrhosis. "Floods in the Yamuna in 2007 may have carried heavy metals either through the backflow or fish population, which the gharials consumed. There was no contamination found upstream of the Chambal river," he says.
Conservationists are concerned because the deaths were species-specific. Only gharials that were over 10 years--the breeding age--and above six feet in height died. The death occured only among the natural population and not the captive bred lot, a forest official said. "The viscera should be sent for toxicological studies to find out why mortality was so species-specific. This could affect the declining adult population," says B C Choudhary, a scientist at Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India.
The gharials' status was recently changed to "critically endangered" category (see 'Croc can't go on', Down To Earth, November 30, 2006).
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.