Bihar’s Gandak River Flourishes With Over 200 Gharials

by | Jun 7, 2023 | Environmental News, Wildlife

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According to a recent survey, the number of Gharials in the Gandak River has increased from 30 in 2014 to 217 in 2023. The resurgence of this highly endangered species of Gharial has given environmentalists hope.

Bihar's Gandak River Flourishes With Over 200 Gharials

The Gandak River And The Gharials

According to recent confirmation from the authorities of Bihar government conservation,217 gharials have been seen in the Gandak River. The government of Bihar’s conservation efforts is beginning to bear fruit, as the number increased by 30 from 2014 to 217 in 2023.

During the survey, 37 adult gharials, 50 sub-adults, 49 juveniles, and 81 yearlings were seen. After the Chambal sanctuary, the Gandak River has become India’s second most successful breeding place for gharials.

Conservation Officials are advocating for the Gandak River in Bihar to be designated a conserved reserve for the critically endangered Gharial species. The gharial, an endemic to the Indian subcontinent, lives in running rivers with deep pools, high sand banks, and healthy fish populations. It is the most aquatic of all living crocodilians.

How Did The Resurgence Of Gharials Happen?

The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) launched the gharial reinforcement project in the river. WTI and the Bihar Forest Department in 2014 marked the beginning of the conservation effort. Following their release, some 30 gharials from the Sanjay Gandhi Jaivik Udyan (Patna Zoo) that were born and raised in captivity were monitored.

The release stock included three males and twenty-seven females, was evaluated for health, and acclimatized by feeding live fish for six weeks to instil hunting abilities. Each individual was sexed and marked before being transported. Gharials are distinguished by unique markings on the bony portion of their tail. Two were fitted with satellite transmitters, and four were implanted with VHF [Very High Frequency] tags for remote monitoring. A VHF tag is a transmitter that emits signals that a receiver can detect.

The river’s sandbanks or bars, excellent for Gharial habitat, cover 10.92 per cent of its total area. The average water level measured during the lean season is roughly 2.64 meters. This is enough for adults and sub-adult gharials, who prefer deeper locations than juveniles and yearlings.

Gandak has reduced fishing pressure, with no fishing activity recorded in more than 55% of the stretch. The encounter rate of fishing boats and fishermen has been 0.3 and 1 per kilometre, respectively.

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