Nearly three decades after a successful 'rear and release' programme was launched in Orissa to save the gharial, wildlife authorities are now thinking of using satellite telemetry to find out where these highly endangered crocodiles were disappearing.
After around 500 gharials, reared in the Nandankanan zoo near Bhubaneswar, had been released into the Mahanadi, only a few are found in the river today, wildlife sources said.
The gharial, crocodilus gangeticus for the zoologically inclined, which used to be found in large numbers in the Mahanadi, is on the verge of extinction, sources said.
The crocodile is already extinct from the Brahmaputra and few survived in the Chambal river. It is no longer sighted in Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar, experts say.
"The gharial is a threatened species today and is included in the Schedule-I of Wildlife Protection Act and the IUCN Red Data Book," Ajit Patnaik, director of the Nandankanan zoo told PTI.
The wildlife wing, in a fresh bid to save this species from extinction, now proposed to release the crocodiles in the wild but only after a thorough habitat survey and a post release monitoring programme, sources said.
In a move reminiscent of the use of fixing transmitters on olive ridley sea turtles to find where they were going after laying eggs on the Orissa coast, the gadgets are now planned to be fitted to the gharials to know what was happening to them, they said.
"We want to monitor their movements through satellite telemetry and a proposal had been submitted to Chief Wildlife Warden SC Mohanty," the sources said.