Gharial population increasing in Nepal: Census

Chitwan: A recent census shows the growth in the population of gharial crocodiles in Nepal.

The number of gharial crocodiles now has reached 198, according to the census carried out in the rivers of Nepal in March-April this year.

The census report shows that the number of crocodiles has increased by 74, in comparison to the census carried out in 2013, when only 124 crocodiles were found in rivers of Nepal.

Assistant Conservation Officer of the Chitwan National Park, Bed Bahadur Khadka, informed that 84 gharials were found in the Narayani River alone, followed by 82 in Rapti, 31 in Babai  and one in Karnali. Earlier, there were 43 in Narayani, 45 in Rapti, 14 in Babai and two in Karnali.

Khadka attributed the increase to the Crocodile Breeding Centre established at the CNP in 1978.

Now, it has been expanded in Bardiya National Park also in order to conserve the endangered species, he informed. The Centre searches eggs in riverbanks, where gharial mothers have hidden them, and bring them to the Centre for incubating safely in captivity.

According to Khadka, the Breeding Centres had occasionally been releasing the amphibian reptiles into the six rivers of Nepal since 1981. They continued releasing the reptiles into four rivers only after they found none of the crocodiles in Kali Gandaki and Saptakoshi Rivers.

Until now, the Breeding Centre has released 399 gharials in Narayani, 476 in Rapti, 35 in Kali Gandaki, 95 in Saptakoshi, 41 in Karnali and 110 in Babai, said Khadka.

Khadka further said 75 per cent of the released crocodiles had already flowed to India in search of their prey, fish.

Various human activities including the fisheries and extracting stones, sand and pebbles from the riverbed have been the main causes of the destruction of the habitats of the amphibian reptiles.

Listed among the species of special concern by the WWF, it has been assumed that 50 per cent of the gharials will be extinct in ten years.