Efforts to save dying gharials in the National Chambal Sanctuary are being hampered by insufficient data and confusing toxicological results, international crocodile experts have said in their report to the government.
Over 110 gharials of the 182 in the sanctuary have died till Tuesday and the remaining infected ones will also die shortly in the absence of suitable medication, Ravi Singh head of World Wildlife Fund (WWF), India, said. What is worse is that the government does not have the number of infected gharials in the 40-km killer stretch of the sanctuary.
Investigations in January and February by Crocodile Special Group of the World Conservation Union, an internationally recognised body on wildlife conservation, exposed how gharials had been allowed to die since November when the first death was reported.
An indication of the looming danger to gharials would have been exposed had the state governments of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh recorded the sudden disappearance of carnivorous turtles from the Chambal.
“Death of wild turtles in the area was not documented. A single, apparently ill, soft-shell turtle was observed by a river patrol during field studies but was not collected for examination,” the investigation involving five international crocodile experts said.
Late reaction from government agencies and non-professional approach has resulted in important data being lost. “Information on the first gharials to die, which is unavailable, would have been informative in ascertaining any trends between the first animals affected and those that died later,” the report said.
The experts have also cautioned that analysis of the ‘limited’ tissues should be relevant and justified. “Many samples collected prior to our arrival were collected by various laboratories without any apparent rationale or means of efficiently retrieving test results,” the report said.