Endangered gharial making a comeback in India
New Delhi, June 23: From being on the verge of extinction the Indian gharial population has seen a steady growth owing to conservation efforts.
The main threats to this species are river pollution, dam construction, and massive-scale fishing operations. Other serious problems include illegal sand mining, which destroys gharial egg-laying grounds, and poaching. The last refuge of the gharial is the Chambal River in northern India, where the vast majority of the remaining wild population survives.
The World Wildlife Fund India has been involved in the Species Recovery Programme ever since the National Chambal Gharial crisis in December 2007. In collaboration with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, WWF-India started a gharial reintroduction programme at Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary. Since January 2009, 250 captivity-reared gharials from Kukrail Rehabilitation Centre (Lucknow) have been released into River Ganga.
'Numbers have gone up'
Gharials population had registered a 98 percent decline between 1946 and 2006; the adult population nosedived, with a 58 percent reduction across its range in just nine years, starting from 1997.
Based on three surveys done by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) between 2017 and 2018, around 211 gharials of different age-groups are present in the river as compared to merely 15 recorded in 2010.
The WTI conducted three continuous surveys in the entire stretch of the Gandak river in 2017-18. In the survey conducted from February 4-11 2017, 119 gharials were sighted in the entire stretch of the river. In 2018, two consecutive surveys (February 9-17 and 21-27) documented 148 and 166 gharials respectively in the same stretch. Around 40 hatchlings have been sighted in 2018 after the survey so experts expect the number to increase this year.
The Gharial, endemic to India was listed in the schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and is Critically Endangered on IUCN Red list. There are about 800 gharials in India as of now in Ganga river and its tributaries.