In a bid to save the critically endangered ghariyals, the Uttar Pradesh forest department and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released 60 of them into the Ganga river next to this village in Meerut division, 60 km east of Delhi on Thursday.
The ghariyals, measuring between 12 ft and 15 ft, on an average, were transported from the Kukrial breeding centre near Lucknow.
Local villagers gathered around and helped forest officials release the reptiles into the Ganga — their original habitat.
“We are reintroducing them (ghariyals) into the Ganga after a lull of over 17 years,” said Bibhas Ranjan, chief conservator of forests of the Meerut region.
Ranjan said 75 ghariyals were released in the same stretch of the Ganga here in 1991. “But they could not survive beyond 2006,” he said. The average lifespan of the ghariyal is about 50 years in the wild.
The chief conservator said 71 more ghariyals would be released into their original habitat soon.
He allayed villagers’ fears by informing them that ghariyals are different from crocodiles and had never been found attacking humans.
They feed on small fish, he told them.
“An estimate indicates that barely 1,400 ghariyals survive in the wild now,” said Parikshit Gautam of the wildlife fund.
This though is a marked improvement from the estimated 70 that existed in 1975. The rise in their population has been brought about by conservation efforts at nine sites in the country.
The rare species is also found in the Brahmaputra and Mahanadi rivers.
Ghariyals have slender elongated snouts. In mature males, the snout is tipped with a large bulbous mass resembling a pot, or ghara in Hindi, from which its popular name is derived. Its biological name is Gavialis gangeticus.