Updated 11:37 am, Sep 18, 2018

Finally, Chambal’s gharials on their way to Harike in Punjab, with a halt at Chhatbir zoo | SNE

By  Hindustan Times .
Nov 29, 2017

MAGARIn movie memory, Chambal is the hub of dacoits. But that region of Madhya Pradesh is bringing a key element back to the ecosystem of Punjab this week. The first lot of 25 gharials from Morena in MP arrived at the Chhatbir zoo here on Tuesday.

A team of officials of the zoo and the Punjab forest and wildlife department was in Morena for the past some days to make arrangements for their transportation by road, informed Kuldeep Kumar, Punjab’s chief wildlife warden. “The team was engaged in making arrangement for transportation in specified cages in MP,” he told HT, adding that the best time for releasing the animals into rivers is between December and February. “Each one of the gharials is about three meters long.”

In all, 65 gharials belonging to the Gavialidae family would be released at Harike. Already there is good number of gharials at the Chhatbir zoo. Some of these too are likely to be released at Harike in the second phase.

Hanging fire for long

This project for gharials was hanging fire for the past 12 years. During the previous Congress regime (2002-07), the proposal was moved to the central government for a nod in 2005 to reintroduce the fish-eating gharials in the Sutlej-Beas system. The Centre gave the permission.

However, people in villages near the Harike sanctuary opposed the release, fearing attacks by the animals. The wildlife department officials have since been educating them for the past two years that these gharials belonged to fish-eating species and do not attack human beings at all. “In Chambal, even children can be seen bathing in teh river, living in the same areas as gharials. There has been no case of the people having been attacked by these reptiles. Interestingly, the water in which gharials are present is good for drinking,” Kuldeep said.

With Capt Amarinder Singh again becoming chief minister this March and showing keenness, the state wildlife officials in collaboration with WWF-India conducted several studies in the sanctuary and in the surrounding areas to check the suitability of releasing gharials there. “We have a go-ahead from all concerned in this regard,” said a senior official of the wildlife department.

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