Gharial or Gavial | Online Record Book Preview

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Gharial or Gavial - Species Detail

AKA: Gold: 17' 1" Gold (Bow): 0' 0"
Endangered: Silver: 0' 0" Silver (Bow): 0' 0"
Bronze: 0' 0" Bronze (Bow): 0' 0"
Gavialis gangeticus

"Gharial," the name preferred by most current authorities, is from the Hindi ghariyal for this animal, and that in turn from the Hindi ghara, which is a long-necked clay pot that somewhat resembles the bulbous tip of an adult male gharial's snout. Also called gavial, which is believed to be an early typographical misspelling of gharial that has never been corrected. The specific name refers to the Ganges River, where the specimen that was first described for science was obtained.

DESCRIPTION Males can reach lengths of 20 feet (6 m), sometimes more; the largest recorded (1924) was 23 feet (7 m). Females are 14-15 feet (4.3 to 4.6 m).

A large, distinctive crocodilian with an extremely long, slender snout. Adult males have a bulbous growth, or "narial excrescence," on the upper surface of the tip of the snout. Its legs are weak and unsuited to walking, so when on land it pushes itself along on its belly. But its fully webbed rear feet and broad tail make it highly mobile in water. There are 54 slender, very sharp teeth in the upper jaw and 48 in the lower. Adults are colored light tan to olive, with dark bands and blotches. The young are a plain dark brown when hatched, fading quickly to pale brown.

BEHAVIOR Carnivorous, feeding almost entirely on fish and frogs. Favorite prey is catfish, which feed on the commercially valuable tilapia. In areas where gharials have declined, catfish numbers have increased, to the detriment of tilapia and the villagers who depend on them economically. Nesting season is March-April. The nest is dug in a sandy riverbank or sandbar not more than about 30 feet (9 m) from the water. Clutch size is usually 25-45, though it can be fewer or more. Incubation is 9-13 weeks, with the female guarding the nest from predators, then tending the hatchlings for several months.

HABITAT Prefers deep, fast-flowing, winding rivers with high banks, deep pools, relatively clear water, and sandbanks for basking and nesting.

DISTRIBUTION Gharial are still present in Pakistan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh, largely in the Himalaya-fed river systems of the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra, and some tributaries. Also farther south in the Mahanadi River in Orissa State, India. Formerly found in the Manas River in Bhutan, but probably extinct there now. Also formerly in the Kaladan and Maingtha rivers in Myanmar (Burma), but now believed extinct there.

STATUS Listed as endangered by the USF&WS (1970) and IUCN, and on Appendix I of CITES (1975). Depletion of gharials is attributed to habitat loss and disturbance from expanding human populations, as well as hunting for skins, accidental drownings from becoming snared in seine nets, and collection of eggs for food by local people.

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The Gharial or Gavial currently has 1 Entry listed in the SCI Record Book!

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