Indian Gharial, Gavialis gangeticus is the only surviving member of an ancient family of crocodiles, found to swarm the Ganges and its tributaries from Chambal in Rajasthan to Mahanadi in Orissa and Brahmaputra and Barak valley of Assam. Formerly, the species was distributed across the rivers of Pakistan, Burma, North India, Nepal and Bhutan. Now its population has shrunk up to 96% throughout its past range; 5,000-10,000 in the 1940s to less than 200 by 1976. In 2006, the mature gharial population is less than 200 in India and 35 adults in Nepal. The species is extinct in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan. Only two records for the species were recorded from Myanmar in 1927 and presumed extinct now. The drastic decline in the gharial population over the last decades can be attributed to over-hunting for skins and trophies, egg collection for consumption and killing for indigenous medicine. Now, only three widely separated breeding subpopulations are left in India and one in Nepal. While hunting is no longer considered to be a significant threat, anthropogenic activities cause an extreme limitation to gharial range due to irreversible loss of riverine habitat. Because of the rapid population decline, the gharial is listed by IUCN, as critically endangered. There should be i) controlled fishing in the river, ii) use of nylon gill net, stone and sand mining in the river should be prohibited, iii) proper management and care of nests at captivity, iv) regular surveys and monitoring of gharial in the wild areas and v) reintroduction programme to save the remaining gharials.
Keywords: Indian gharial, population decline, critically endangered, ecology, reintroduction, monitoring, over hunting, egg collection, indigenous medicine, riverine habitat, Assam, anthropogenic activities, conservation threat, extreme limitation, subpopulation, breeding, conservation, nylon gill net, proper management, extinction.