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Gharial

Nature

Against the tide

Garial1

The gharial is among the largest crocodile species, but it faces a fight to survive.

With its long, saw chain-like mouth, the gharial reminds of an unusual pre-historic or extinct species. Soon it might be one. In 2007 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the reptile as ‘critically endangered’. In 2006 it conducted a survey of breeding gharial adults in the wild. It found less than 200.

The gharial is native to the Indian subcontinent. Its appearance is unmistakable. Its narrow snout becomes shorter and thicker with age. At the end is a small lump called ‘Ghara’ – which is Indian for ‘pot’. It is a vocal resonator present on all adults, and a visual sign to females. The gharial is one of the largest crocodile species, just behind the saltwater crocodile. Males can become six metres long and weigh 180kg. The average lifespan is between 40 and 60 years.

The gharial’s habitat mainly consists of deep, fast-moving riverstreams. On land it is clumsy and its short, weak legs give it poor locomotion. The only times it leaves water is when basking or nesting. But in the rivers the gharial is king. It is too thin and delicate to attack large prey and therefore feeds on fish, which it grasps from the water with razor-sharp teeth. Continue Reading…