Prague zoo sets out to save Indian gharial | world | Hindustan Times
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Prague zoo sets out to save Indian gharial

The Prague zoo has launched a test programme to save the Indian gharial from the brink of extinction with a million-dollar pavilion for the animals to bask, and hopefully reproduce, in.

world Updated: May 12, 2008 01:57 IST

The Prague zoo has launched a test programme to save the Indian gharial from the brink of extinction with a million-dollar pavilion for the animals to bask, and hopefully reproduce, in.

There are only between 150 and 200 of this species, the Gavialis gangeticus also known as the gavial, living in the wild along India’s rivers today. Another 20 or so are in captivity in India, Japan, Singapore, Sri Lanka and the United States, according to figures from the Prague zoo.

“All of the conservation plans launched in the world have failed up until now. The gharial is one of the most threatened species on the planet,” said Petr Veselsky, in charge of reptiles at the zoo.

The new gharial pavilion — the first such programme in Europe — contains three males and four females from a park in Chennai.

They are distinguishable from crocodiles by their especially long and thin jaws, which gives a terrifying appearance despite the fact they are fish-eating and present no threat to humans.

“The final goal is to see these gharials reproduce so as to send their young to other zoos or even to release them into their country of origin,” said Veselsky. He predicts it will take another 10 years for this to take place, the time for the tank’s new inhabitants to reach sexual maturity.

Previously abundant along the banks of rivers in India, Myanmar and Nepal, gharials have paid a heavy price for the degradation of their habitat due to river pollution, agriculture and increased river traffic.

The Prague zoo shelters 4,600 animals representing some 636 different species it hopes to see grow and multiply.