Gharial are fascinating animals. Related to crocodiles, they have seriously long, thin snouts, on the end of which males have a bulbous growth used for communicating via ‘pops’. They care for their babies in huge communal creches.
Sadly, they are Critically Endangered. Despite being unusual creatures, the story of why gharial are at risk of extinction is all too familiar. Freshwater environments are the most threatened on earth: freshwater species populations have declined a catastrophic 83% since the 1970s.
But it’s not just wildlife – people depend on having clean, functioning, healthy rivers and freshwaters for health, happiness, cultural heritage and livelihoods. Freshwater conservation is especially vital in the Himalayas, the ‘water tower of Asia’, where rivers that influence the lives of 40% of the world’s population originate.
However, many of these rivers are becoming some of the most polluted rivers in the world. How do we turn this around, for people and wildlife?
We share with you the weird and wonderful lives of gharial in Nepal, and through an exploration of the history and present of their conservation, we discuss threats to freshwater ecosystems in South Asia, and how community conservation could lead to solutions in the future.
- Phoebe Griffith, DPhil Candidate, Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London and University of Oxford: "Dam! Lessons about saving rivers from forty years of gharial conservation"
- Ranjana Bhatta, EDGE Fellow, Zoological Society of London and President, Care for Nature (CFN): "Flirting fathers and marvellous moms: an insight from the reproductive behaviour of gharial in Chitwan National Park"
- Bibek Raj Shrestha, Research Associate, Global Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (GIIS): "Introduction to the complex and multifaceted issue of sand mining in Nepal and international concerns"
- Dr Bhagawan Raj Dahal, Deputy Country Manager, ZSL Nepal Office: "Community-centred conservation as a way forward for gharial conservation"
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