Monday, November 17, 2014

Gharials of Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary

Gharials of Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary
Gharial is one of the three crocodilians native to India, other two being mugger and saltwater crocodile.
Shockingly, Gharial, also known as the fish-eating crocodile is listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with a global population of less than 235 individuals! I was lucky to meet five out of total eight gharials at Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary. Bethuadahari, located by NH-34, lying in Nadia-Murshidabad forest division, got its recognition as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1980. This forest area was erstwhile a Zamindari forest, until it got vested in 1919. After it was handed over to the Forest Department in 1949, Teak stands were raised to enrich the area and turmeric used to be cultivated as minor forest product. Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary represents the lower Gangetic plains of West Bengal corresponding to the bio-geographical zone 7B. Although I could spot only gharial, peacock, mongoose, nilgai and few birds in enclosure, Bethuadahari is a potential source of spotted deer for translocation to various Indian forests like Gorumara National Park, Buxa Tiger Reserve etc.
Gharials of Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary
The elongated, narrow snout of an adult gharial is lined by 110 pointed teeth!
In Bethuadahari, you're not allowed to wander around by yourself. Definitely for the interest of wildlife inside the sanctuary and your safety, a guide from the forest department escorts you inside the forest in small groups, for a 20-30 minutes of walk. As of now, guided forest walk is the only facility available to tourists visiting Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary. Official timings are morning 9-12 and afternoon 2-4, all seven days a week. There's a nominal entry fee for visitors but good news for photographers is you won't be charged anything extra for still photography! Our guide expressed his dissatisfaction with his job which was also evident from his lack of knowledge/interest on inhabitants of the very forest. So, I still doubt if there are actually eight gharials at Bethuadahari. If the data is correct I'm happy to console myself with the statistic that 3.5% of worldwide gharial population is safe for sometime. Anyway, reading some wildlife fact sheets after a brief web-search, I can only see gharials in imminent danger of being swept away forever... Hard to digest for a wildlife lover but then truths are seldom sweet things. My next photo story shall show you colorful peacocks of Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary, so, please check back.
Gharials of Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary
Although these are baby gharials, an adult male gharial can be even longer than 20 feet!

10 comments:

  1. Quite scary creatures. And to think that they have survived from prehistoric days!!!

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    1. Hahaaa... truly said... who knows may be they were larger then :-))

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  2. The gharials from the first two pics seem to be camera-friendly :P
    hmm,..so many species are endangered,don't know which species is safe!

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    1. I'm safe and I would love to stick with this delusion... I think all of us should... :-D

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  3. Why are they getting extinct? And they seem quite dangerous.

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    1. Pankti, according to wiki, reasons are plenty:
      "The drastic decline in the gharial population can be attributed to a variety of causes, including overhunting for skins and trophies, egg collection for consumption, killing for indigenous medicine and killing by fishermen."
      and also due to,
      "loss of riverine habitat, depletion of fish resources and use of fishing nets"
      :-(

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  4. They look comparitively less scary but the teeth my god! Btw she looks quite interested in you yeti:-)

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  5. They are scary reptiles! Clear shots and great captures. Did you know there is a Crocodile Bank in Chennai? It is the largest crocodile bank in Asia and is known for the various species of the reptiles. You should visit it as well. :)

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    1. You're right, I should... thanks for the info Parul :-)

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