Gharial (also known as Indian Gavial or Gavial)
The gharial, also called Indian gavial or gavial, is the only surviving member of the once well-represented family Gavialidae, a long-established group of crocodilians with long, slender snouts. The gharial is listed as a critically endangered species by the IUCN.
The gharial is one of the three crocodilians found in India, the others being the Mugger crocodile and the Saltwater crocodiles. It is one of the longest of all living crocodilians.
Gharials thrive in deep rivers. They are powerful swimmers but graceless on land, and will leave the water only to bask or to nest on sandy beaches. They were once distributed across approximately 7,700 sq. mi. of riverine habitat of the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Irrawady river systems. Today their distribution is limited to only 2% of their former range.
Young gharials eat insects, larvae, and small frogs. Mature adults feed almost solely on fish, although some individuals have been known to scavenge dead animals. Their snout morphology is ideally suited for preying on fish. Their long, narrow snouts offer very little resistance to water in swiping motions to snap up fish in the water. Their numerous needle-like teeth are ideal for holding on to struggling, slippery fish. Gharials will often use their body to corral fish against the bank where they can be more easily snapped up.
According to IUCN, there has been a population decline of 96-98% over a three-generation period since 1946, and the once widespread population of an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 individuals has been reduced to a very small number of widely spaced subpopulations of fewer than 235 individuals in 2006. The drastic decline in the gharial population can be attributed to a variety of causes including over-hunting for skins and trophies, egg collection for consumption, killing for indigenous medicine, and killing by fishermen. Hunting is no longer considered to be a significant threat. However, the wild population of gharials has undergone a drastic decline of about 58% within nine years between 1997 and 2006.
Facts | Photo © Shubhrajit Chatterjee