Gharials are in danger of becoming extinct for the following reasons:
- Habitat loss due to river damming, sand bank erosion, pollution of waterways, and human disturbances
- Rapid depletion of source of prey due to overfishing
- Destruction of Gharial nests due to grazing livestock and other agricultural-related activities
- Eggs are used for human consumption while body parts are used for traditional medicine
- Accidental capture on gill nets
Gharials, also called Gavials, are one of the three crocodilians that are indigenous to the freshwater riverbanks of the northern Indian subcontinents.
Its distinct elongated jaw and 110 sharp teeth are well-adapted for catching fish. Its Hindi name came from the long-necked earthenware pot called ghara. Males can be distinguished from females because of a distinct bulbous growth at the end of its snout, similar to the native Indian vessel.
Considered as the world’s longest type of crocodile, these aquatic reptiles are on the brink of extinction with only less than 700 mature individuals based on the 2018 report by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
The population decline can be attributed to the continued deterioration of its natural habitat as rivers are being converted into dams and irrigation systems or diverted for other human purposes. Grazing cattle and buffalos also cause significant damage to riverbanks and even Gharial nests.
The water areas where Gharials roam around are also littered with abandoned gillnets, entrapping these fish-eating crocodiles where they are left to die or killed to be sold off. Its ‘ghara’ and other body parts are considered either as trophies, medicinal ingredients, or food source for locals.