The Threat to Gharial Crocodiles in Protected Areas

Gharials, also known as fish-eating crocodiles, are “a type of Asian crocodilian distinguished by their long, thin snouts” (“Gharial,” 2017, para. 2). They belong to the Gavialidae family. The average lifespan of the crocodiles in the wild ranges from 40 to 60 years. They may reach up to 15.5 ft in length and weight over 2000 lbs (“Gharial,” 2017). A distinctive feature of gharials is that they hunt fish by using a vibration detection mechanism, which helps them locate prey in the water. During the mating season, these crocodiles lay eggs along the sandy river banks. The incubation period lasts for 70 days (“Gharial,” 2017).

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Previously, the population of gharials could be found across Asian countries including Pakistan and Myanmar, but today they are represented merely in two states: India and Nepal. They primarily inhabit the areas along the Chambal, Girwa, Son, and Narayani Rivers, which are deep and fast-flowing (“Gharial,” 2017). Since the species has undergone a rapid decline in the population number (by 98% since 1900), it is now critically endangered (“Gharial,” 2017). The changes in the habitat environment are the major factors that make it difficult for gharials to survive.

According to Gharial Conservation Alliance (GCA, n.d.), “as sandy banks are vital for gharial nesting and basking the destruction of these banks and bars by sand-mining, erosion, and changing river levels poses a serious threat to the species” (para. 2). In the countries of origins, the protection of habitats of the endangered species in the major strategy aimed at the preservation of the crocodiles in the origin countries. For instance, in Nepal, gharials are protected in Chitwan National Park and Son Gharial Sanctuary in India. Nevertheless, the level of the conservation programs in those sanctuaries is usually poor as local people continue to overexploit resources there. Fishing, agriculture, sand mining, and water extraction for irrigation are a few activities that pose threats to the crocodiles in the protected areas (GCA, n.d.).

Some researchers and settings aim to implement gharial conservation programs in captivity as well. Two of those settings are Honolulu Zoo and National Chambal Sanctuary where 90% of the surviving crocodiles are held (International Reptile Conservation Foundation, 2017). The efforts undertaken by the managers of the sanctuary include the artificial creation of sandbanks for gharials’ nesting and basking and the collection of eggs for hatchery incubation (GCA, n.d.). These techniques proved to be effective. Moreover, the former one indicates a chance for the restoration of nesting areas in the wild.

Overall, the situation remains critical as there is no holistic approach to the protection of gharials and their habitats. The fact that people continue to exploit the areas that are vital to the survival of the species makes it clear that the level of public awareness of the problem is insufficient and currently locals are incapable of changing their lifestyles in a way that would meet the mutual interests. The fact that wild gharials continue to be killed by bandits and poachers demonstrates that the policies enacted by authorities to control the environment are ineffective. Nevertheless, to achieve sustainable positive results, these barriers to the survival of crocodiles should be eliminated. Although the techniques which researchers and environmental organizations currently use showed some promising effects, they may be insufficient to keep the population of gharials safe in the wild. Until local authorities and residents recognize the importance of gharial conservation, the species’ population trend will likely continue to decrease.

References

Gharial Conservation Alliance. (n.d.). Habitat and range. Web.

Gharial. (2017). Web.

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International Reptile Conservation Foundation. (2017). Gharial. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2020) 'The Threat to Gharial Crocodiles in Protected Areas'. 14 December.

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