Bangladesh hopes to rekin­dle pas­sion to save rare croc­o­diles

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Bangladeshi con­ser­va­tion­ists in­tro­duced two rare river-dwelling croc­o­diles to po­ten­tial mates yes­ter­day in a last-ditch at­tempt to save the crit­i­cally-en­dan­gered species from ex­tinc­tion. A 36-year-old fe­male ghar­ial-a fisheat­ing croc­o­dile once na­tive to rivers across the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent-was brought from a zoo in north­east Bangladesh to the cap­i­tal Dhaka, where it is hoped she will mate with an older male to re­pop­u­late the species. A sep­a­rate 40year-old male was re­turned to the zoo in Ra­jshahi where there are only fe­males.

Ghar­i­als can only breed un­til the age of 50 and as the small cap­tive pop­u­la­tion in Bangladesh ages, con­ser­va­tion­ists de­cided in­ter­ven­tion was needed if the species was to have any chance of sur­vival. “This is our last hope to res­cue the crit­i­cally-en­dan­gered ghar­ial from to­tal ex­tinc­tion,” Sarowar Alam, who heads the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture’s Bangladesh ghar­ial pro­ject, said. “We’re hope­ful we’ll get some re­sults, even though there are fears these adults ghar­i­als may have lost the urge to mate.”

Bangladesh, with its vast net­work of rivers, was once a key habi­tat for the ghar­ial, a croc­o­dile dis­tinc­tive for its large body and long thin snout. But to­day they are vir­tu­ally ex­tinct in Bangladesh and the few which are seen likely made their way down­stream from In­dia. There has been no sight­ing of ghar­i­als in Bangladesh’s two Hi­malayan rivers-the Ganges and Brahma­pu­tra-in more than a decade. The species has also all but van­ished from its erst­while habi­tats in Pak­istan and Bhutan, with fewer than 200 ex­ist­ing in rivers mainly in In­dia but also Nepal.

There are 11 cap­tive ghar­i­als in Bangladesh, of­fi­cials say, and if the breed­ing pro­gramme is a suc­cess it is hoped the in­fants can be re­leased back into the wild. “This is the first time we’ve de­cided to ex­change the ghar­i­als among zoos so that they can mate and breed,” Jahidul Kabir, the gov­ern­ment’s con­ser­va­tor of forests said. The Padma and Jamuna rivers, the main trib­u­taries of the two Hi­malayan rivers, have been iden­ti­fied as po­ten­tial sanc­tu­ar­ies for the species should it re­pop­u­late. Con­ser­va­tion­ists have built ar­ti­fi­cial sand­banks in the zoos for the breed­ing ex­er­cise. Though ghar­i­als spend most of their time in wa­ter, sandy banks are es­sen­tial for build­ing nests and bask­ing.

—AFP

DHAKA: This pic­ture shows ghar­i­als in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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