Conservation project bears fruit: Odisha welcomes first natural nesting of gharials after 45 years

After 45 years of wait, Odisha is now seeing the first natural nesting of gharials. As many as 28 hatchlings had been noticed within the Satkosia vary of Mahanadi river in May of this 12 months.

Gharial is taken into account among the many most critically endangered and genetically weak species, in comparison with saltwater crocodiles and muggers.

The journey for conservation of Indian gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) began in 1975 at Gharial Research and Conservation Unit (GRACU), Tikarpada, and adjoining Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary alongside the Mahanadi river in Odisha.

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Odisha had develop into the one state to have all of the three species of the reptile —freshwater gharials, muggers, and saltwater crocodiles after introduction of gharials in 1975.

START OF GHARIAL CONSERVATION PROJECT IN ODISHA

India Today TV reached out to Lala Ashwini Kumar Singh to know extra concerning the course of of the gharial conservation project in Odisha.

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Lala AK Singh is a retired senior Wildlife Research Officer with the federal government of Odisha, in addition to a member of the IUCN and SSC conservation breeding specialist group. He has been related to the project of gharial hatching because it was launched at Satkosia forest vary in 1975 by the Odisha authorities with assist from UNDP.

Lala A Okay Singh instructed India Today TV, “That was UNDP and FAO collaboration with the government of India and state government when this crocodile conservation began.”

Explaining the conservation program, he stated, “The process was to reduce the natural mortality as fast as we can, collection of eggs, incubating the young ones, rearing the young ones and finally when they were 3-4 feet, releasing them in nature.”

“We got our first clutch of eggs from Gandok in Bihar and hatched successfully. The eggs in Gandok come from Narayani in Nepal.”

“June 18, 1975 was the birth day of the first gharial in captivity at Tikarpada, then we went on rearing them. In 1976, we got eggs from Nepal, but due to delay in transportation there was more mortality at the embryonic stages,” added Lala AK Singh.

According to Lala AK singh, the captive rearing project began in 1975 and in 1976, Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary was notified on 750 kms of forest land alongside the Mahanadi river.

He additional provides, “In 1977, we first released the young ghariar in Mahanadi. Once the young ones are 3-4 feet, they don’t have enemies other than other crocodiles and humans. By 1990, some 700 gharials hatchlings were released.”

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Talking concerning the species, Lala AK singh explains that gharial is the oldest crocodile and is a delicate species in comparison with muggers. Gharials want perennial deep water and totally different basking websites are required for hatchlings, juveniles, and for adults.

Additionally, facet streams and monsoon retreats must also be obtainable for gharials to outlive.

According to AK Singh, the project confronted a short setback in 1980 when a district forest officer launched muggers contained in the river close to the gharial hatchlings web site, inflicting competitors as gharials are probably the most endangered species.

To make the conservation project a hit, the federal government determined to contain group members.

Lala AK Singh stated, “We had involved Munda tribes for egg collection and husbandry assistance, and local fishermen for supplying fish to crocodile farms. Local community members were given khaki uniforms and appointed as gharial guards.”

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Gharials had been breeding in Mahanadi river and had remained undetected after they moved out of Satkosia throughout the late Seventies.

They have returned to Satkosia vary after bamboo rafting was stopped, fishing was strictly regulated, and the Covid-induced lockdown introduced order and created a serene habitat for gharials.

OFFICIALS MONITORING GHARIAL NESTING SINCE ITS DISCOVERY

Regional chief conservator of forest and Satkosia subject director Pradeep Rajkarat stated, “After we noticed the hatchlings emerged on May 22, immediately, we got one temporary camp established along with a PTZ camera and solar system for charging. A CCTV camera was fixed there and we were closely monitoring it without going near it.”

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Pradeep Rajkarat provides, “From the waterfronts also we had a team for observing with binoculars, the mother gharial was guarding the hatchlings and they were in the river banks.”

However, the gharials have now gone contained in the water. Pradeep Rajkarat stated, “We don’t have control over it, it will survive on its own in the wild. We have to safeguard from other human interference, like fishing and other activities that should not unnecessarily kill.”

Gharials are totally different from muggers and don’t assault on their very own, except provoked first. Moreover, Muggers are aggressive and feed on carcasses, whereas gharials feed on fishes.

“But many people mistake them for crocodiles and consider them harmful,” added Rajkarat.

EFFORT NEEDED TO ENSURE SAFETY OF GHARIALS

Biswajit Mohanty, former member of nationwide board of wildlife, instructed India Today TV, “After 45 years this has happened, I hope the forest department takes all measures to ensure their safety.”

Talking concerning the potential hazard to the conservation programme, Biswajit Mohanty stated, “Only problem is two harmful and disturbing activities which are still being promoted at Satkosia gorge. First, a tourist resort built on the river belt which is actually nesting and basking of gharials. Secondly, the forest department promotes tourism by way of motorized boats riding inside the gorge which will also scare them. These two things need to stop if we are serious about saving the gharials.”

GOI MAY CALL FOR SHIFTING GHARIAL TO GREEN BOOK OF IUCN

Notably, in 1971, gharial was listed underneath the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Book as an “endangered (EN)” species.

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In 1974, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) knowledgeable Dr Bustard stated in his report for the Government of India that the gharial was going through imminent extinction.

Because of general success in conservation of gharial as a species in its complete vary, the Government of India could name for shifting of gharial from the Red Book of IUCN to the Green Book. The Green e book was launched in 2014 to measure conservation success.

Lala AK Singh stated, “We should strive to maintain, monitor and protect whatever we have achieved and allow gharial to be uplifted in its status from Red Book list to Green list. That will be the greatest achievement of India in the conservation field.”

WATCH: Good news: Odisha welcomes first natural nesting of gharial after 45 yrs

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