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Keywords:

  • river conservation;
  • crocodiles;
  • gharial;
  • Gavialis gangeticus;
  • habitat selection

Abstract

  • 1.
    The species diversity of inland waters is among the most threatened of all ecosystems and in many parts of the world it is in continuing and accelerating decline. Such decline could be restrained by acknowledging the scope of target species, so that all relevant stages in their life cycle are considered.
  • 2.
    The gharial Gavialis gangeticus is a prominent riverine species of the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra and Mahanadi river systems that is becoming increasingly rare due to reduction in water flow and available nesting beaches, modification of river morphology and increased mortality in fishing nets. Despite these threats, scientific information on habitat selection by gharial is still inadequate, which hinders conservation measures.
  • 3.
    This paper presents the population status, basking site selection and water depth preferences of different size-classes of gharial based on a study conducted in the National Chambal Sanctuary, India.
  • 4.
    Between 1992 and 2007 a 40% decline in the gharial population was observed in the National Chambal Sanctuary. The decline was prominent in the recruitment class (<120 cm), which primarily comes from the nests laid in the wild, and also in sub-adults (>180 to 270 cm) comprising both wild and reintroduced gharial.
  • 5.
    Along the Chambal River, gharial preferred sandy parts of the river banks and sand bars for basking and showed less preference for rocky river banks and rocky outcrops. Clay river banks were least preferred.
  • 6.
    Juvenile gharials <120 cm and 120–180 cm preferred water depths 1–3 m and 2–3 m, respectively. Gharial >180 cm (including sub-adults and adults) preferred water depths >4 m.
  • 7.
    Increasing demands for sand for development activities, and water abstraction for irrigation and energy generation coupled with mortality in fishing nets, are likely to affect gharial and other aquatic species, and steps need to be taken to maintain the minimum river flow necessary to sustain ecosystem processes.

Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.