Sighting of male gharials offers park officials hope

March 07, 2018

The Kathmandu Post, March 07, 2018

Kathmandu-Conservationists have been elated by the sighting of two male gharials, one apiece in Rapti and Narayani rivers that flow through the Chitwan National Park (CNP).

The park was going through a crisis in the field of gharial conservation after what was believed to be the last male gharial died after falling into a fishing net in the Narayani river in May last year.

A three-day long study conducted to gather information on the status of gharials in Rapti and Narayani recently has given the park officials and conservationists the hope of improving the gharial population. 

According to Nurendra Aryal, the CNP information officer, the male gharials were sighted at Bhelauji in the Narayani river and  Sauraha Ghat in the Rapti river respectively.

“This is an encouraging development for us all. Sighting of two male gharials in the park is a great news for gharial conservation,” he said.

Conservationists have been struggling to improve the survival rate of gharials in their natural habitat for long. Gharial experts say the survival chance of gharials in nature is as low as one percent, making them one of the critically endangered wild species.

They say that overfishing, water pollution and fragmentation of natural habitat have further threatened gharial population.

Last December, the CNP officials had visited Babai River in Bardiya in search of a male gharial. After days of search in the river, which had three male gharials as per the census of 2016, the team had managed to capture and transport one male gharial to support gharial breeding in the CNP.

Laxman Prasad Poudyal, ecologist with the Department of National Parks & Wildlife Conservation, said it will take some more time to determine the exact gharial population in the CNP

“The analysis of data gathered from the field is underway. Once the analysis is completed, the department will release the final report on their status and number,” he said.

The last census of gharials in 2016 showed the country had 198 gharials - 166 in CNP and 32 in Babai and Karnali rivers of the Bardiya National Park.