Endangered Species of the Week: Gharial
Species: Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)
Status:Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting fact: The gharial is one of the largest crocodilians and has the narrowest snout!
Named after the bulbous nasal appendage of the male (which resembles an Indian pot called a ‘ghara’), the gharial is a unique species of crocodilian found in India and Nepal. A true piscivore, the extremely narrow snout of the gharial is superbly adapted to whip through the water quickly to snatch fish with its small, razor-sharp teeth. The gharial has relatively weak legs, and when fully grown is unable to raise its body off the ground. This may explain why it is one of the most aquatic of all crocodilians! The ghara on the male may be used as a visual sex indicator, a sound resonator or a bubbling devise used during courtship, although its exact function remains unknown.
The gharial came close to extinction in the 1970s, prompting a long-term captive breeding and re-introduction program. The gharial is still suffering huge declines as damming, irrigation and mining by an ever-growing human population cause habitat loss and degradation. The gharial survives in just 2% of its previous range, and as few as 200 breeding adults remain in the wild. Current conservation programmes aim to protect the gharial habitat and remaining populations.
For more information on the gharial and its conservation, visit the Gharial Conservation Alliance website.