Project to boost endangered Gharial population

Project to boost endangered Gharial population

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Dhaka, Aug – In the wake of a rapid decline in Gharial population, an initiative has been taken to exchange captive Gharials among the country’s zoos aiming to increase the population of the critically endangered freshwater species.
“They’re few captive Gharials in the country’s zoos. But, there’s no any pair of the species. That’s why they’re unable to breed,” principal Gharial investigator of IUCN Bangladesh ABM Sarowar Alam said.With support from Bangladesh Forest Department, he said, a male Gharial from the National Zoo (Dhaka) will be released in Rajshahi Zoo for the first time in the country on August 13 under a Gharial exchange programme since there is no male Gharial there.
In 2016, the IUCN Bangladesh and Bangladesh Forest Department jointly conducted a survey in Bangladesh National Zoo (Dhaka Zoo), Rajshahi Zoo, Rangpur Zoo and Bangabandhu Safari Park, Gazipur to ascertain the number and condition of captive Gharials in the country.
The captive habitat condition, facilities and measures needed to make the place comfortable to Gharials were also considered during the survey.
The survey found that four adult males rescued from fishermen’s nets between 1983 and 1997 are now there in Dhaka Zoo and those are now in healthy condition, but there is no female Gharial nor any breeding facility.
Three adult females were found in Rajshahi Zoo. The Gharial enclosure in Rajshahi Zoo is a circular one with a small island at the centre. Lack of gentle slope makes it difficult for Gharials to reach the island for baking.
Four adult females of the species are kept in Rangpur Zoo while its enclosure in the zoo is comparatively smaller than other zoos. The facilities for basking and nesting of Gharials are also poor.
Under the survey, only one juvenile male of 115 cm was found in Bangabandhu Safari Park, Gazipur. The husbandry condition in the Safari park seems to very poor as well. The Gharial was kept in a small pond with more than a thousand of freshwater turtles.
Sarowar Alam said Gharials will be exchanged among the National Zoo, Rajshahi Zoo, Rangpur Zoo and Bangabandhu Safari Park so that they can make their pairs and facilitate breeding.
“All the zoo authorities have agreed to do so. And we’ve already prepared a breeding ground of Gharials in Rajshahi Zoo,” he said.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are only 200 Gharials in wild across the world. It has been declared as a critically endangered species in Bangladesh in 2015.
“We don’t find any breeding pair of Gharial in the nature in the country, but find 5 to 10 juvenile is being found Gharials in Padma and Jamuna rivers every year, which get caught in fishermen’s nets,” Sarwar said.
If the Gharial exchange programme becomes a successful one, the Gharial investigator said, the engendered freshwater species will be released in some selected Gharial hotspots of Padma and Jamuna rivers to increase its population.
Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) is a unique crocodilian species characterised by its long and slender snout.
According to experts, Gharials mostly live in large-bodied, deep and fast-flowing rivers, and primarily live on eating fish. It is a keystone species of running freshwater ecosystem and plays an important role in the aquatic ecosystem.
Gharials help distribute nutrients from the bottom of the riverbed to the surface of the water and increase primary production and fish populations and maintain the aquatic ecosystem. – UNB

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