A step closer towards better understanding of gharials

The Hindu , Sunday, June 29, 2008
Correspondent : Staff Reporter
“Study will yield vital new information on their habitats ”

NEW DELHI: “We could be closer than ever before in understanding the real cause of the death of more than a hundred gharials at the National Chambal Sanctuary since December 2007,” said Gharial Crisis Management Group chairman Ravi Singh here .

Participating in an Environment and Public Health Lecture Series organised by Toxics Link and India International Centre, he added: “Fundamental gaps in the knowledge of gharial biology were highlighted in the course of investigation and we are hopeful that telemetry test now under way on gharials will fill in gaps in our understanding of this species.” Mr. Singh said the study would yield vital new information on gharials and their habitats including assessment of health and status of population in the crisis zone.

More than 100 gharials have been lost in the National Chambal Sanctuary since last December.

Team set up

A multi-disciplinary team under the chairmanship of Mr. Singh was set up by the Union Environment and Forests Ministry to study the possible causes of their death and suggest ways to prevent such incidents in future.

“Death of any species in such large numbers is a clear indicator of release of heavy toxic material into the gharial’s natural habitat and points to lax regulatory rules. Immediate action is required from the Government to avoid such large-scale loss to our environment. Gharials are threatened by shrinking prey-base, illegal sand mining, river-bed cultivation, fishing and river pollution,” said Toxics Link Associate Director Satish Sinha.

Documentary screened

Also screened on the occasion was a documentary, “Gharial: On the verge of extinction”, by Lalit Shastri, Principal Correspondent of The Hindu in Bhopal.

It is a telling commentary on the state of the gharials that are threatened by human pressure and are today fighting a battle for survival.

Major casualty

“The film documents the state of the gharial from the late 1980s to the major casualty that occurred recently. A 400-km stretch of the Chambal has been declared the national sanctuary. Today the gharial is threatened like never before,” added Mr. Shastri.

SOURCE : The Hindu Sunday, June 29, 2008

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