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Jailed in Jungle: Why Wild Tigress Languishes in Enclosure, Needs to Be Probed

Two years ago, two wild tigers were relocated from Madhya Pradesh to Odisha under India’s maiden interstate -tiger translocation programme which failed miserably. The two big cats were shifted  to Satkosia tiger reserve in Odisha after its tiger population plummeted  from 11 in 2004 to 2 in 2014. One of the big cats  Mahavir sent from MP was reportedly  killed by poachers while Sundari, the tigress, accused of killing two persons,  landed behind barbed wires in a small  enclosure raising questions over the  wildlife management in the country. Many wildlife experts in  India feel that the Satkosia fiasco should be probed and the people responsible for the plight of the national animal  should be held accountable. Condemned to Captivity Before Sundari was condemned to captivity in  Ghorela enclosure in Mukki range of of Kanha  National park,  the tigress had  already  spent an agonizing period of  28 months in captivity in Satkosia, where it was sent  to find a new home and help populat

Endangered Chambal Gharials Find New Home in Kuno

Gharial, Gavialis Gangeticus, Chambal river, Upstream, National Chambal Gharial, Wildlife Sanctuary in Morena, Wildlife, The wildlife india,
Gharial (Gavialis Gangeticus) has found a new home in Kuno, a tributary of Chambal river in the upstream. Over a year after a female gharial showed way to a safe haven to it's threatened reptile species, 25 gharials were released in the river , the lifeline of Kuno Palpur national park. Continued to be threatened by the illegal sand mining in National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary in Morena, the forest department decided to introduce the reptiles in the river.  Five males gharials and 20 female-reptiles were released, said the divisional forest officer of Kuno wildlife division PK Verma .Besides, threatened  chambal turtles were also released.

Are Gharials Threatened by Illegal Mining in Chambal?

Gharial, Gavialis Gangeticus, Chambal river, Upstream, National Chambal Gharial, Wildlife Sanctuary in Morena, Wildlife, The wildlife india,
One of the six  female gharials, who was radio tagged  in 2017  swam over 40 kms upstream last year for nesting in Kuno sand-bed. The scientist studying the reptile behavior  revealed to the authorities about the  female reptile’s journey leading to the discovery  of the new habitat. This first ever known case of gharial migration last year showed that now these reptiles are also running away from the menacing human presence in their  habitat around Chambal river. The five remaining  radio tagged gharials  were also found later nesting in Kuno.  Rampant sand mining has threatened this endangered animal and believed to have been one of the major reasons to force the females to migrate. Kuno flows through the Kuno Palpur national Park in Sheopur district of MP, awaiting a pair of lions for two decades for translocation from Gir.  The river flows from south to north in the park draining the other rivulets and tributaries into Chambal in Morena, at MP-Rajasthan border. About 180 km long , it originates from the Shivpuri plateau and passes through districts of Shivpuri, Sheopur and Morena.

 Also read: Problem of Plenty: Gir Lions Turn Scavengers AsDeadly Virus Stares

The gharials which chose to lay eggs on the quiet banks of the Kuno River were radio -tagged in 2017 by the scientists of Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology (MCBTCH) under telemetry research to learn more on their movements and nesting.  Zailabdeen Sheikh  the scientist  studying the gharials said, “During research, we have found that a female gharial went to Kuno but didn’t return. When we traced, the gharial  was found along with it's nest in Kuno . Besides sand mining the rising population of gharials in Chambal may also be the reason for the dispersal of the reptile.”  But statistics suggest the gharial population in Chambal River had declined to 1,255 in 2017 from close to 1,800 in 2015. For the 2019 census, the department decided to include Parwati River also, and therefore, the number of gharials in Chambal river basin increased to 1,681.

The illegal mining disturbs the gharials’ nesting sites as large numbers of heavy machines are deployed to dig out sand from the river banks in Chambal and Bhind districts . Besides, transportation of the mineral by trucks and dumpers creates chaos on the river banks almost 24X7 all around the year . “The colonies and pools of gharials are being destroyed by the illegal sand mining. The gharials are not finding safe sandbanks to lay eggs  and that might be the major reason why they might be moving up to  Kuno and Parwati,” officials said seeking anonymity.  There has been a decline in the number of wildlife tourists  in the Chambal sanctuary. Wildlife photographers are disappointed because of less sightings .According to South Asia Network on Dams Rivers and People (SANDRP), Madhya Pradesh has emerged at third place in illegal sand mining activities with 16,405 cases in 2018-19, most of the cases were from Chambal and Narmada river basins. Unable to control the illegal sand mining, the government is also mulling over denotifying some of the banks  to make the mining a legal affair.  It seems, when the chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced a crackdown on mafia in the state, the sand mafia doesn’t seem to fit in his scheme.

Shrinking Habitat of Gharial Has Threatened the Reptile

Gharial, Gavialis Gangeticus, Chambal river, Upstream, National Chambal Gharial, Wildlife Sanctuary in Morena, Wildlife, The wildlife india,
Experts said that this reptile is  “not well-suited for land. And they only leave water either to bask in the sun or to nest in the sand on the river banks.” There was a time when  the reptiles used to  be found  in a vast area stretching from Pakistan to Myanmar but now  their range has shrunk to two countries: India and Nepal. They are found along the Chambal in MP ,UP and Rajasthan and Son  river in Sidhi  district of MP and along the Narayani River in Nepal.  Like Chambal, illegal sand mining has disturbed the reptile in Son too.  Their name gharial seems to have been derived from  the word ‘ghara’  (  earthen pot) . Male gharials sport a large   ‘ghara’ like  growth over their snout .They use their ‘gharas’ to vocalize and blow bubbles during mating displays, experts said. This fish eating  reptile does not lunge or attack like their cousin- the crocodile. The reptiles congregate to mate and make nests during the dry season, when females lay eggs in the sandbanks along slow-moving sections of water.  During one such exercise, the female gharial of Chambal had travelled over 40kms  and reached  Kuno river for safe nesting and a new home.

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