Endangered gharial census set to begin

Chitwan, March 17

Census of endangered gharial crocodiles is all set to kick off in Narayani and Rapti rivers in Chitwan from tomorrow.

Assistant Conservation Officer Nurendra Aryal at Chitwan National Park said that counting of the crocodiles facing extinction would start from tomorrow.

According to Aryal, the two rivers will be divided into eight parts and four teams will count the crocodiles in two phases.

As per the plan, the counting will go ahead from Rapti’s Loktantrik Lake to Sauraha, Sauraha to Kasara, Kasara to Golalghat and Narayani’s Golalghat to Amaltari in four different sections for three days in the first phase.

In the second phase, the counting will concentrate on various sections of the Narayani River from March 22 to 24. The counting will proceed at Narayani’s Sikhrauli Thin Bhangala’s Amaltari, Ganjipur to Golaghat, Amaltari to Bagban and Bagban to Triveni.

Aryal said that they would count the crocodiles seen on the river banks and in the waters. “On whichever day the most number is seen, that will be the official and authentic number,” said Aryal.

The counting is slated from 7:00am to 10:00am every day.

Each team consists of five people.

Aryal informed that they would start counting the crocodiles in other rivers after the census was over in the two rivers.

Data in 2013 showed that Nepal’s rivers are home to only 200 gharial crocodiles.

Though crocodiles were left in Kaligandaki and Saptakoshi, they were not detected then. Around 100 crocodiles were spotted in Rapti and Narayani rivers then.

A reproduction centre was set up at Kasara of Chitwan National Park with a aim of preserving and increasing the number of gharial crocodiles in 1978.

Crocodiles are being reproduced from the centre by collecting eggs from rivers inhabited by crocodiles.

Crocodiles produced from the centre are being left in different rivers in the country.

Bed Bahadur Khadka, Assistant Conservation Officer at Chitwan National Park said that they had left as many as 1,056 crocodiles reproduced from the centre in six rivers till date.

Of them, 376, 399, 35, 95, 41 and 110 crocodiles were left in Rapti, Narayani, Kaligandaki, Saptakoshi, Karnali and Babai rivers respectively.

Increased pollution and water flowing down to India from Nepal were causing the gharial numbers to go down.

Khadka said that 75 per cent crocodiles would migrate to India with the water flow.

Ramchandra Kandel, chief Conservation Officer at Chitwan National Park, said that fishing, extraction of stones and boulders and other activities were endangering the habitat of crocodiles.

The government had declared gharial crocodiles endangered aquatic animals in 2007.