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Study finds breeding gharials in Parvati river

A study has discovered the presence of breeding gharials in Parvati river, a tributary of Chambal river

jaipur Updated: Jan 28, 2018 22:00 IST
Sachin Saini
Sachin Saini
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
breeding gharials,Parvati river,Chambal river
Breeding Gharial population in Parvati River, a tributary of Chambal river.(HT Photo)

A study has discovered the presence of breeding gharials in the Parvati river, a tributary of the Chambal flowing on Rajasthan-Madhya Pradesh border.

Gharials (scientifically known as Gavialis gangeticus), found in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent, has been classified as ‘critically endangered’ by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). The gharial is one of three crocodilians native to India, the other two are mugger crocodile and saltwater crocodile.

The study was conducted by Dharmendra Khandal of Tiger Watch and YK Sahu, field director of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, and the report was published in the IUCN journal on January 17. Surveys were conducted between 2015 and 2017 on the three tributaries of the Chambal – Pravati, Kali Sindh and Banas -- to assess the presence of gharials and muggers.

“The objective of the study was to document extent of gharial distribution in Parvati, Banas and Kali Sindh. The study was prompted in part by anecdotal reports and previous rescue efforts in the Banas river where seasonal flow has been disrupted,” Sahu said.

Khandal said gharials and muggers were present in the main channel of the Parvati, upstream of the confluence of the three tributaries. “Breeding adults, nests and hatchlings were observed in the Parvati, but nothing comparable was found in the other rivers,” he said.

“Banas has records of seasonally isolated individuals; Kali Sindh lacked gharial and had mugger at a short distance upstream of its confluence with the Chambal. Kali Sindh was excluded after the initial survey; Banas was monitored through rescue operations and local reports.”

The report states that the National Chambal Sanctuary (NCS) holds the largest gharial population, estimated at above 80% of the species in the world. Smaller numbers of the species thrive in Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary on the Girwa river, in Chitwan National Park (Nepal) on the Narayani river, on the Gandak river in India, and in Corbett National Park on the Ramganga river.

Khandal said the study idea came in 2014 when an injured gharial was seen with villagers near Bhuri Pahari area; it was rescued and released. “In the 2015 survey along the Parvati, 14 gharials were seen between Pada Ghat and Koth. On the Banas, one gharial was observed near Banas bridge, and no gharial was found on the Kali Sindh,” he said.

In 2016, five gharials were reported in the Banas near Aamlideh. “29 gharials (1 male and 28 females/sub-adults) were noticed in Parvati from Pada Ghat to Rondi (40 km) in 2016. The presence of a male gharial at Jind Baba along the Parvati prompted us to investigate signs of nesting,” Khandal said.

“In June 2017, one male and three females/sub-adults along with 203 hatchlings were spotted at Jind Baba; two females/sub-adults along with 42 hatchlings were sighted in Mor Kudna area.”

He said, “Based on an average clutch size of 35-45 eggs/nest, these observations indicate the presence of 4-6 nests at Jind Baba, and possibly additional 1-2 nests at Mor Kudna. The nesting areas lie within the NCS.”

Mugger numbers were higher in the Parvati -- 83 were found in 2015 and 66 in 2016. “Parvati lies within the NCS; a 60-km stretch from the confluence with the Chambal is protected. Previously, no records of gharial using this stretch were available. The present study establishes that this protected stretch is an important additional segment of gharial habitat because the species utilises this section for breeding, nesting, and hatchling,” Khandal said.

“Recent considerations of river interlinking, particularly the Parvati and Kali Sindh, needed to take into account the devastating effects such projects would have on gharials,” he said.

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First Published: Jan 28, 2018 21:59 IST