Nepal’s Gharial population rises

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Nepal’s Gharial population rises

Nepal’s Gharial population rises

Nepal’s Gharial population rises, but threats to the Crocs persist.

The Gharial population in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park has shown a positive trend, with an 11% increase recorded at the beginning of 2024, totaling 265 individuals compared to 239 the previous year. However, despite this promising growth, several challenges threaten the long-term survival of these critically endangered crocodiles. Officials at Chitwan National Park reported the population increase, emphasizing the importance of ongoing conservation efforts. However, a recently published study highlighted concerns regarding the uneven distribution of Gharials throughout their habitat. Threats such as fishing, changes in river flow, and infrastructure development are deterring them from certain prime habitats.

The study also raised concerns about the low success rate of the captive breeding program. Although 404 Gharials have been released under the program, the overall population increased by just 80. Juveniles released under the program face high mortality rates in the wild or are washed downstream to India. The study, conducted between 2017 and 2022, involved annual winter population surveys in Chitwan National Park. Researchers observed Gharial distribution, riverbank characteristics, and basking site preferences. Findings indicated that Gharials prefer sandy riverbanks and face human disturbances, such as sand mining and rock quarrying, especially in the Narayani River.

Despite challenges, pristine Gharial habitat was identified in the Baguban-Tribeni stretch of the Narayani River. This area, protected by national park boundaries and illegal sand quarrying, supports a stable Gharial population, highlighting the importance of undisturbed environments for conservation. To address the challenges facing Gharials, researchers suggest releasing juveniles upstream in the Rapti River to improve survival rates. Additionally, urgent action is needed to address the poor survival rate of captive-bred Gharials and mitigate threats to their habitat.

While the increase in Nepal’s Gharial population is a positive development, it is essential to address the persistent threats and challenges facing these critically endangered crocodiles. Effective conservation measures, informed by research findings and stakeholder collaboration, are crucial for ensuring the long-term survival of Nepal’s Gharials. As we continue our efforts to conserve Nepal’s Gharial population, it is crucial that we address these challenges effectively and implement measures to mitigate the threats they face.