Republica Daily, 15 Jan 2018
The census of waterbirds that migrate to rivers, ponds and wetlands of Nepal during winter has begun in the eastern region of Chitwan National Park from Saturday.
These migratory birds visit Nepal from as far as Siberia and other cold countries where there exists almost nothing else besides snow in winter. The birds visit the wetlands of Nepal, seeking warmth and prey during winter.
The team involved in the census also report about other animals and species they observe in the survey areas in the course of the census. Conservationists are also thrilled to notice healthy population of endangered gharial crocodiles during the course.
Gharial is one of the two types of crocodiles found in Nepal, the other being mugger crocodile. The species can be observed along the Rapti River from Kumroj to Sauraha of Chitwan district during boat ride that takes about two hours.
“During the boat ride when the river is clean, we can get the sight of plentiful aquatic species including variety of fishes. They are the main prey for the migratory birds, which is also shared by Gharials,” said ornithologist Basu Bidari, who is also involved in the census.
Bidari informed that 26 gharials and 22 mugger crocodiles have been counted so far during the census. Conservationists said the number of gharials observed should be considered satisfactory.
“Last year, we observed 18 gharials. The number of gharials we observed is much better this year,” he said.
Protecting gharials has remained a big concern for conservationists. They said the key to conserving them is to ensure plentiful preys, especially fishes. That objective can be achieved by keeping the rivers clean.
In total, there are 198 gharials in various rivers of the country. Majority of gharials are in Narayani and Rapti rivers in the Chitwan National Park, which alone boasts a total count of 166 gharials.
The census is being conducted by Bird Education Society of Chitwan, of which Bidari is a former chairperson.
Another team is conducting a separate survey from Nawalpur in the west. The survey from the eastern region would be concluded in a few days. Both the surveys would be merged to bring out a joint report.