Most of us are likely familiar with crocodiles and alligators, but these creatures also have a lesser-known relative: the gharial. Unfortunately, the gharial has been on the verge of extinction for generations. Not only are gharial populations under threat from habitat encroachment and fishing, but they are considered a genetically weaker species whose hatchlings require 70 days of incubation and must stay with their mother for several weeks and even months.
To protect what was left of the endangered species, the Gharial Research and Conservation Unit in Tikarapada started a conservation project in 1945 which was implemented in various sanctuaries across India, including the Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary.
Finally, 45 years after the launch of the conservation project, multiple states in India are now observing the natural nesting of gharials in the wild. The state of Odisha recently welcomed its first gharial hatchlings in the Satkosia range of the Mahanadi river.
Over the past three years, the state had introduced 13 gharials in an effort to bolster the population. Unfortunately, only eight of the 13 survived. Of these eight, the forest department sadly lost six, while the other two have not been detected.
To avoid repeating the same outcome, the 28 new gharial hatchlings are receiving a lot of support from conservationists to boost their chances of survival. Officials are closely monitoring the hatchlings with drones, while a team of 50 foresters monitors them on the ground, camping close to the habitat to keep an eye on them, and making residents aware of the importance of preserving gharials.
The conservationists will monitor them until they reach their natural habitat under the water.