Sunday, September 23, 2012

Save the Gharials

The Gharials are the only surviving member of once well represented family Gavidae, and are now listed as a Critically Endangered by IUCN. It is very Unique of all the Crocodilian species in having an elongated snount. The Nepali or local name for Gharial is घऱियाल or घड़ियाल ! 
They are nearest surviving relatives of Dinosaurs, Sarcosuchus  commonly called Super Croc, an extinct genus of crocodyliform had few similarities with present day Gharial. Sarcosuchus also had a strange depression at the end of its snout. Called a bulla, it has been compared to the Ghara seen in Gharials. Unlike the Ghara, though, the bulla is present in all Sarcosuchus skulls that have been found so far. This suggests it was not a sexually selected characteristic; only the male Gharial has a ghara.

Its distribution is restricted to Ganges and Bramaputra river systems. It is found in Narayani, Koshi, Karnali and Mahakali rivers of Nepal. The Gharials are known to live upto 60 years or more. The Gharial were once known to have been spread all over the major river system in Indian sub continent and now prevail only in Nepal and India.Numerous threats has led to extinction of the species from Bhutan, Burma and Pakistan and almost extinct from Bangladesh. Their population has declined in recent year. 

"Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Nepal held Gharial census on January-February 2008. The census estimated a total of 81 Gharials in Nepal. Out of total Gharial recorded during the census, 70 Gharials were recorded through direct sighting while 11 were based on indirect observations." - (Extracted) 

Even though the Garials can exceed 5-6 meters they are not man-eaters, as they have a small but elongated snout they are only capable to consume fishes, not large prey and doesn’t pose a threats to human. Hunting poaching and habitat destruction has caused a rapid population decline. In Nepal there is a belief that “Ghara” – a bulb like part in the tip of the snout, when placed under pillow of pregnant woman makes her childbirth safe, easy and painless. Various such misconceptions regarding their use for medicinal purposes, hunting them for their eggs and skins are primarily the reason the Gharial population are decreasing. But these days the Government has kept Gharial under protection which has helped to reduce the declining population rate. 

Male Gharial with Ghara on tip of the snout

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