Wildlife department releases 10 gharials into Beas river
The department has not released these gharials at Harike wetland, the largest wetland in northern India and the most favourable location for the species, due to a protest from farmers there.
The Punjab wildlife department and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWFN), with the help of the forest department, released 10 gharials — the Indian variety of crocodile — into the Beas river at Gagrewal village, 30 km from district headquarters, on Monday.
The fish-eating reptiles, aged 3, were brought to the spot from the Chhatbir Zoo in Mohali.
“The animals had reached Gagrewal village in a special truck on Monday from the Chhatbir zoo in Mohali,” said district forest officer (DFO) Charanjit Singh. The department has not released these gharials at Harike wetland, the largest wetland in northern India and the most favorable location for the species, due to a protest from farmers there.
Farmers are apprehensive that the animal is dangerous for humans and damages crops. Farmers had recently sent a memorandum to Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on their opposition to the release of gharials. “If the state government wants to release the reptiles in the wetland, It should purchase farm land of the farmers falling near the river. We will not allow the government to release the animals in the river,” the memorandum had said.
“Soon after resolving farmers’ concerns, we will release the gharials in the Harike wetland as well,” DFO Charanjit added.
Dept working on project for a decade
The departments have been working on the project for the past decade. In 2005, the Punjab State Wildlife Board had recommended the reintroduction of wild gharials in the Beas river area as it is less polluted than the Sutlej river. The proposal was also moved to the central government for approval.
“These gharials, a shy reptile, belong to fish-eating species and do not attack human being or any animal. The reptile is at the top of the food chain in freshwater sources. Its presence in the river will help increase the yield of fish for human consumption,” the DFO added.
Baba Bakala MLA Santokh Singh Bhalaipur, chief wildlife warden Dr Kuldeep Kumar and conservator of forest Nidhi Srivastava were present when the gharials were released into the river.