Millennium Post

MP on top spot in gharial count, says forest minister

Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh, which regained the coveted 'tiger state' tag last year, has added another feather to its cap by emerging on top in the count of gharials (fresh water crocodiles) this year, state Forest Minister Umang Singhar claimed on Tuesday.

As per a report of the Wildlife Trust of India, there are 1,255 gharials in the Chambal river of Madhya Pradesh and 255 in the Gandak river of Bihar, Singhar said.

The minister further said according to a departmental census report of Morena's Divisional Forest Officer P D Graviel, there are 1,876 gharials in the Chambal river.

"Besides being the tiger state, Madhya Pradesh has also emerged as the 'gharial state' in the country," he said.

Efforts made for their conservation and protection have started bearing fruits now. It is basically the result of hard work done by officials," the minister added.

With 526 tigers, Madhya Pradesh last year regained the coveted "tiger state" status after losing it to Karnataka nearly a decade ago, thanks to its focus on conserving the wildlife outside the protected areas of reserves.

A state forest department official said in 1980s, only about 200 gharials were left in the world. At that time, their number in India was 96, including 46 in the Chambal river that flows across Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

Later, the river spread over an area of 435 km and was declared as the Chambal Gharial Sanctuary, he said.

Graviel said one of the major reasons for the increase in number of gharials in the state is the creation of Devri Eco Centre where crocodile eggs are reared. After the eggs mature, the hatchlings are kept under observation for three years before being released in the Chambal river.

"Every year, 200 gharials are released into the Chambal river under the 'grow and release' programme for conservation of this aquatic species," he said.

He also informed that gharials are found in very few countries in the world, including India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Gharials were earlier on the verge of extinction in the country, but now efforts to conserve the aquatic animal have paid and "Madhya Pradesh has emerged at the top spot in this area also," Graviel said.

Though gharials are found in many rivers of the country, their number there is quite less as they traverse only in deep and clean water.

"Gharials are shy in nature and maintain a distance with other animals. They remain in groups and are a major attraction for tourists in the Chambal river," another forest

official said.

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