Wildlife & Biodiversity

Baby gharials sighted after 30 years in a remote region of Nepal

The animals' sighting is a positive sign for the recovery of the species

Last Updated: Thursday 21 November 2019

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London have found baby Gharials (a type of crocodilian) in a remote region of Nepal, BBC World News has reported. Gharials being sighted after 30 years in the area is a positive sign for the revival of one of the rarest and strangest reptiles on earth.

The Gharial is critically endangered, with less than 1,000 adults remaining in the wild. The Gharial is found only in the Indian Subcontinent and is a unique animal with its distinctive long thin snout. The Gharial derives its name from the ‘ghara’, the Hindi word for ‘pot’ because of a round-shaped knob at the end of its snout.

The piscivorous (fish-eating) species is struggling for survival in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Its strongly, attenuated snout and rows of uniform sharp teeth supported by a relatively long, well-muscled neck makes it a most efficient fish catcher. 

According to the scientists, the discovery of 100 hatchlings can be a big boost for the potential recovery of the species. The 100 baby gharials, with three adult females and one male, were discovered in June but the details are being revealed now to aid conservation efforts.

Once found across the Indian Subcontinent, the gharial is nearly extinct, with less than 100 adult gharials left in Nepal. The gharial is of little danger to humans but hunting, loss of habitat due to drying rivers and construction of dams have severely endangered the species.

The Gharial, with its long and toothy rostrum, is particularly vulnerable to entanglement in fishing nets, where it frequently gets trapped underwater and drowns. Fishermen generally kill entangled gharials or they chop off their rostrums to disentangle nets and perhaps, in retaliation for damaging nets. 

River bed cultivation also threatens gharial survival by alienating them from the terrestrial component of their habitat, leading to desertion and migration. Removal of sand from riverbanks disrupts gharial behaviour and may even force local populations to desert the area.

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