in the National Chambal Sanctuary in central India are dying despite government claims that efforts were on to save them.
By Monday, 110 of the estimated 182 gharials in the sanctuary had died. Some NGOs suspect the figure is higher.
The Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh governments have joined hands to conserve gharials in this 35-km stretch, but the forest department is still clueless. “What can we do? We rescued three ill gharials but could not save them because they were highly infected,” said an official of the Uttar Pradesh forest department.
The officials said kidney failure was the main reason behind the deaths but toxicology and pathology examinations have thrown up multiple reasons. High level of uric acid was found in the body of the dead crocodiles. The examination of the organs of the dead animals in government institutes at Bareilly and Lucknow found lead concentration between 0.7-1.4 ppm.
Wildlife experts from India and abroad believe the gharials may have got infected through the food chain — that would mean they were infected from the fish in the Chambal river, or at the captive breeding centres. Most of the gharials released in the stretch were from captive breeding centres in Lucknow, a forest department official said. But it could not be ascertained if the gharials that died were from the Lucknow centre.
Wildlife lovers are angry. “It is sad that even months after the deaths, the government has failed to check it,” said Fayaz Khudsar, a wildlife expert working in the Chambal valley.
An Environment Ministry official, a member of the gharial crises management group, said the Centre was providing all possible assistance to check the deaths.