Satellite-tagged gharials released

Satellite-tagged gharials released

Six gharials have been satellite-tagged and released in a river in Bihar in what may be a unique conservation effort to save the last few hundreds of these reptiles.

Once upon a time, gharials—fish-eating crocodiles with elongated snouts—were found in abundance in almost all major river systems in the Indian subcontinent, from Irrawaddy in the east to Indus in the west. Because of indiscriminate killing, the number of gharials is now limited to only a few hundred.

Since the 1940s, there has been a drastic decline in gharial population, which has seen a 96 per cent drop from 5,000-10,000 animals to less than 200 in the 1970s.

It is now one of the critically endangered species in the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The current population stands at less than 200 mature individuals in India, and less than 35 in Nepal. They are presumably extinct in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan, says the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI).

On Saturday, six captive-bred gharials—five female and one male—were satellite-tagged and released in the Gandak river, adjacent to the Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Bihar. “This is just the beginning; we look forward to expanding this project if current restocking is successful. We will also conduct research to see if we can restock gharials in other rivers of Bihar as well,” said Basheer Ahmed Khan, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Bihar.

Sourced from Patna's Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park said the gharials were screened and satellite-tagged for post-release monitoring before they are released.

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