LucknowThe Kukrail gharial breeding centre in Lucknow alone houses around 300 gharials -- once considered to be the total population of the crocodilian in the country. And there are still eggs left for new ones to make an appearance. “We have 300 gharials with us. But this figure represents only what is left after hundreds were sent for breeding to different places over the years,” said Ashok Prasad Sinha, conservator of forest endangered species project, Uttar Pradesh forest department.The gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), also known as gavial or fish-eating crocodile, is a type of Asian crocodilian set apart by its long and thin snout. It is different from the crocodile or the alligator, which exist in bigger numbers. It is native to the northern part of the Indian subcontinent.The jaws of the gharial are too thin and delicate to grab a larger prey. They keep lying in wait for fishes to swim by and then quickly catch them by whipping their heads sideways. They do not chew their prey, but swallow it.Sinha said that the Kukrail centre is responsible for sending gharials for breeding to places like Madhya Pradesh and Chennai in Tamil Nadu. “In all, 238 gharials were sent to Delhi, Rampur, Bijnor, Etah, Mathura and Kanpur. Thirty-one gharials were also sent to other countries, including Bhutan, the US (New York), Pakistan and China,” he shared.The latest batches of 116 gharials left the centre for the natural habitat of Kartania forest range on March 15 and 29. “We are happy that even after sending so many, we still have 300 gharials left. According to wildlife statistics, gharials fall under the critically endangered category,” said Sinha.The gharial is threatened by the loss of its riverine habitat, depletion of fishes, and entanglement in fishing nets. As its population has sharply declined since the 1930s, it has been listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List -- a comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species.