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Extinction Watch: Top predators Gharials may vanish in near future

Scientific classification:Gavialis gangeticus

Gharialsare the top predators of the riverecosystemsbut transboundary issues anddamsare critically endangering this species of crocodile now found only in Bangladesh, India andNepal.

Dams, barrages, and water abstraction have altered the quantity and quality of water available to downstream river sections destroying its habitat. At present the population is approximately 800 gharials after conservation efforts begun in 2007.

image (39)A mature male has a large, bulbous, and hollow protuberance at the end of his snout. This structure is called a ghara or gharal. And while attractive to the female of the species, it ends up entangling the gharials in fishing nets and drowning them.

The ghara is not just ornamental, it acts as a sound resonator, a come-hither to females, as it were. During the season a male collects a harem of females and is prepared to fight off competition.

The colour may vary as might the weight and a fully grown male usually weights between 150 and 250 kgs. Basking in the sun, a gharial often holds its mouth opengaping—helps keep the head area cool while the rest of the body warms up.

They were commonly killed for their skins or the supposed aphrodisiac effect of the males’ snout appendage, and gharial eggs were collected for their medicinal properties.

Owlcation, Extinction, WWF India

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