By: Lauren Augustine
Happy Reptile Awareness Day!
This Croc blog is going to be a little different because it's actually about gharials! I recently visited India and I was able to see two amazing species in the wild: gharial and mugger crocodile. My colleagues and I were graciously hosted by local researchers who took us to some very important wildlife locations. One of the facilities was near the Chambal River, where gharials live in Northern India. We took a boat out on the Chambal River one evening and saw gharials and mugger crocodiles. It was very exciting to see these species in the wild for the first time. The gharial is a shy species and the animals we saw left their basking spots quickly when approached. Over the course of the trip we saw a little over two dozen gharials in three different river systems. Although these crocodilians were seemingly easy to see in the wild, they are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Most of their habitat is not protected and quickly degrading. Gharials are one of the most unique of the crocodilians, having extremely thin snouts used to catch their main source of food—fish.
We also toured several facilities that head-start gharials. Head-starting is a conservation method that involves hatching reptiles in captivity and rearing them until they are big enough to release. This increases their survival in the wild. The gharials are usually between 3 and 6 feet long when they are released to the wild. It was a great opportunity to learn about the captive husbandry of these species in India.
If you can't travel to India to see gharials in the wild, come visit them at the Reptile Discovery Center!