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| Last Updated:: 02/04/2018

Wildlife conservation efforts has gharials making a comeback














The Indian gharial (Gavialis Gangeticus) is one nature's most curious creations. A close relative of the mugger crocodile abundantly found in Indian rivers, this fish-eating reptile has been on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list for decades due to its rapidly declining population. 



Once found in abundance in all rivers of India, the gharial is now limited to just a few rivers and even the Ganga - after which this reptile has been named - does not have more than a few hundred of them living in it. 



However, due to extensive conservation efforts by wildlife departments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and the relatively undisturbed riverine ecosystem of the Chambal which passes through these three states, gharial numbers have reached over 1,680 in the Chambal Sanctuary area. 



For the first time in over 39 years since 1979 (when the gharial conservation mission began in Chambal) an increase of 426 gharials has been registered in a year. This has left wildlife authorities of all three states hopeful. In fact, this is the first year that an increase of over 100 gharials has been registered in this region. 



Amit Sisodia, the ranger of Bah area, said that data collected through a joint survey has encouraged the wildlife department as efforts put in by wildlife employees are finally starting to pay off. 



Girjesh Tiwari, the ranger of Etawah, said the world started to question the competence of Indian wildlife experts when over 100 gharials had died suddenly in 2008 and even the gharial conservation project had come under question. But since then, gharial numbers have been on the rise and this year it has reached 1,681 - a record. Last year, this number was 1,255. 



Sisodia said the survey also showed an increase in the numbers of 36 species of migratory birds - an indicator of the success of conservation efforts made by local wildlife authorities. The number of birds in the sanctuary area has crossed 22,000. This includes 11,500 migratory birds and 466 Indian skimmers. 



The survey also found that the number of mugger crocodiles has increased to 613 in the Bah region of Chambal. It was just 562 last year. In 2014 this number was 390, in 2015 it was 402, while in 2016 it was 464. 



The number of dolphins has remained more or less constant in the area. Last year, their population was 75, while this year it was registered as 74. The wildlife department is now making efforts to make sure the number of dolphins also starts to increase. 



Environmentalist Bhagwan Singh said that sand mining on the banks of Chambal have caused a lot of damage to the environment as the eggs of turtles, gharials and Muggers were destroyed as a result of the mining. 



With the wildlife department banning sand mining in Chambal with the cooperation of local authorities as well as the starting of Chambal Safari to attract tourists to the region, hopes have come alive that this river will once again be filled with the aquatic fauna it was once famous for.