Asia

Gharial conservation

Gharial survey near the Padma river Photo: © Suman Mandal

Project title: Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) conservation in Bangladesh

Location: Padma and the Jamuna river system

Duration: 2015 – 2016

Project background: Gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) have been identified as the most Critically Endangered crocodilian species in the world. The geographical range of gharial distribution has dwindled throughout Pakistan, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Presently, the wild populations of gharials can only be found in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. With the rapid increase in the magnitude of threatening ecological and social factors (e.g. development activities, river bank erosion, sand mining, river traffic, fishing and construction of upstream dams restricting water flow), the gharials in Bangladesh are on the verge of extinction. Comprehensive surveys are urgently needed to ascertain their present population status, habitat utilisation and threat assessment for future conservation initiatives in conjunction with on-the-ground participatory actions and awareness campaigns. ­

The gharial is distributed in the Padma river (Ganges) and the Jamuna Brahmaputra river and some of the tributaries and distributaries in Bangladesh. As the natural habitats of gharials belong to both the Padma and Jamuna Brahmaputra rivers, gharial conservation becomes a trans-boundary issue.

The ecological role played by gharials as top predators in the river ecosystem is yet to be appreciated and disseminated to the general masses and most importantly policy makers and the people dependent on the rivers.

Under the planned conservation initiative for the gharials in Bangladesh by the Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection Project (SRCWPP), a survey on gharial population, habitat condition and conservation needs will be conducted. Once this information is obtained, a Gharial Action Plan for Bangladesh will be prepared. Amongst other activities in this programme, identification and demarcation of gharial habitat, i.e. resting, nesting, basking, feeding, foraging and distribution areas of the species will be identified.

Arrangement of regular meetings and awareness programmes with relevant stakeholders, fisher folks, law enforcing agencies, fishermen, local community and other related personnel who will provide necessary information on the hotspot areas will be conducted. Based on this baseline information, an action plan for the species will be prepared and strategies for an awareness programme will also be developed.

Objectives of the project:

  • Understand the present population status of gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) in the Ganges and Brahmaputra
  • Determine the habitat status and threats of the species
  • Determine the conservation needs of the species
  • Facilitate in situ and ex situ conservation measures for gharials
  • Preparation of Gharial Action Plan for Bangladesh

Expected outputs:

  • The present status of gharial from survey and identification of gharial habitat will be determined
  • From the baseline data a potential gharial sanctuary will be identified and designed; facilitatation to the government to establish the sanctuary
  • Surveying captive gharial population can provide information and facilitate necessary steps to conserve them
  • Develop a Gharial Action Plan for effective conservation of the species

Donor: The World Bank

Partners: Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Division, Rajshahi

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