“Understanding whether gharials were breeding in Bardia National Park was considered to be a top priority for the species, as upcoming plans to divert nearby river systems, which would likely have an impact on the habitat and quality of the river for gharial, are currently underway,” said Rikki Gumbs, researcher at ZSL. “Given the species is limited to around five populations across its entire range, this is such a positive discovery, and a critical step for the long-term recovery of the species in Nepal.”
With fewer than 100 adults remaining in Nepal, several fragmented populations in India and virtually extinct across the rest of their former range, gharials are among the world’s most endangered reptiles. The species have suffered a 98% decline since the 1940s, mostly due to destruction of its riverine habitat caused by construction of dams, irrigation canals, sand-mining, pollution and agriculture. Over-hunting for skins, egg collection, accidental bycatch and pollution in the form of toxic effluents into the rivers from factories upstream also led to the decline.