- To continue increasing the scientific knowledge on gharials
- To integrate favourable measures for gharial conservation in the management of protected areas
- To develop ex-situ conservation measures for the species
- To continue population awareness on environmental protection via the conservation of the gharial.
- To contribute, in the international context of Gharial Conservation Group (GCA), in reinforcing gharial conservation.
To continue increasing the scientific knowledge on gharials
Wild population survey
To optimize the gharial survey, a minimum of 2 watchers will participate in each of the sessions (each of them will watch one river bank and if there are 2 channels, they will be able to prospect each of the latter). Each watcher will have a kayak, binoculars (x10), GPS material and description cards. To ensure maximum success, each of the observations will have to be carried out during basking time, in winter. Favourable observation times would be from 10h to 16h during the cold season (November to February) and from 8h to 14h during the hot season (March to May). These times correspond to the period of high basking activity (Priol & al, 2003).
For each gharial observation, the description card will include :
- Date and hour
- River part prospected
- Visibility of gharial
- GPS localisation
- Age class (and if it is possible sex)
- Habitat components (kind of soil, river’s depth and width, habitat description of river bank, temperature…)
To get a better estimation of all of the data, each observation session will be repeated several times. There is the possibility that the gharials could potentially be disturbed by human activities and that they may consequently reduce their basking behaviour (the observation results would therefore be a sub-estimation of reality).
If possible, prospecting sessions will have to be carried out during short periods in order to minimise the weather or flood variations and particularly reduce the risk of gharials moving between the two different sessions.
- Determine how much prospecting needs to be carried out in order to be able to observe the maximum number of garhials.
- More precise information concerning the Nepalese gharial population,
- Determination of the population type for each the prospected sites (young or adult, wild or released, sex-ratio…),
- Determination of the gharial´s favoured habitat.
Released population survey
The prospecting activities carried out since 2004 (Ballouard & al, 2004, 2005) highlighted that the main risk for released gharials was for them to be removed prematurely from released sites. It is therefore necessary to continue the studies on the released sites. Moreover, it is urgent to develop other release programs in all park and reserve rivers in Terai (Chitwan and Bardia National Parks and Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve).
For that, we should study:
- The quality and the availability of favourable habitats to determine what are the priority conservation areas
- The river’s imminent threats: human disturbances, water quality, fish resource, and deterioration of favourable sites for gharials.
- Determination of favourable periods and sites for gharial release,
To integrate favourable measures for gharial conservation in the management of protected areas
The gharial population in Nepal has not increased despite the more than 20 years and 691 gharials released. The Gangetic dolphin and otter populations also considerably decreased during this same period. All these species need specific habitats. Unfortunately due to human disturbance many of these have considerably decreased in size.
Local people catch fish, gharials´ main feeding resource. Fishermen are also sometimes found to be directly responsible for the death of gavials when using long fishing nets. The laying areas of the gharials decrease as a result of the latter and so does the reproductive potential.
Gharials are key species, and underline the “rivers´ health” (water quality, connection…). Garhial conservation therefore entails the protection of a number of other endangered species as well as that of the gharial habitat.
In order to protect the gharial´s habitat, WWF Nepal is working in close collaboration with the DNPWC. The organisation is going to develop a study on the water quality of the park´s rivers and determine the impact that the pollution has had on the aquatic flora and fauna (bioaccumulation). A study of the impact of human activities (fish, sand and tone excavation) will be carried out in some priority conservation sites and a compromise will have to be determined between human activities and river protection (national park and reserve rivers).
Rivers management study:
To obtain more information on the Terai Rivers, a structured approach has to be taken:
- Bibliography study
- Field visit with all partners to the different parks (DNPWC, Buffer Zone Community, WWF, NTNC…), to identify disturbances which are responsible of water quality loss (consequently favourable habitat loss),
- Identify real case studies, which will permit to check bibliographic data
- Proposition of management plans (for concrete actions) necessary to improve river quality and consequently the gharials´ habitat.
Our knowledge on rivers management is very poor, but with the experience and knowledge from the WWF Nepal study, we will be able to improve the latter.
To maximize the running of results of these different studies and guarantee the soundness of the rivers management proposals, a workshop (with all of the conservation actors) will be organized, which will permit the validation of specific and directly applicable management plans for the Terai rivers (we have to underline that each river will be individually studied).
Seminars on the results will be presented to all partners in order to create a final management plan.
- Improve water quality,
- Increase in fish stock,
- Improve of river connections,
- Decrease fishing accidents (gharial or other protected species capture),
- Decrease the use of long nets fish.
To develop ex-situ conservation measures for the species
Increase in breeding capacity at Kasara breeding centre (Chitwan National Park)
Built in 1978, the Kasara breeding centre has considerably grown. In the one hand, at the informative level: in 2001, the visitor centre was created and many information panels were installed in the centre to explain the breeding conditions. In the other hand, at the technical level: in 2006 a new nursery was built to increase young gharial breeding capacity.
The Kasara breeding centre may be viewed as a referent of gharial conservation. The increase in birth data confirmed the success of the breeding center at Kasara. Nevertheless, this success will have to be confirmed by the construction of new breeding facilities.
Built in 1978, the Kasara breeding centre has since considerably grown. On the one hand, from an information standpoint: in 2001, the visitor centre was created and many panels were put up to inform the general public about the breeding facilities at the centre. On the other hand, from a technical standpoint: in 2006 a new nursery was built to increase young gharial breeding capacity.
It is possible to show that the Kasara breeding centre has been a successful initiative in gharial conservation, which is justified by the increase in birth data.
Before being released, gharials have to reach minimum size and weight to ensure that they will be able to survive in the wild. Young gharials therefore stay 5 years in the breeding centre’s pools:
- March year N: egg laying time,
- June year N: hatchling time,
- June N to June N+1: nursery breed,
- June N+1 to June N+2: post-nursery breed,
- June N+2 to February/March N+5: growth breed,
- February/March N+5: releasing time (size superior to 1.7m).
To increase in gharial number and reduce the fishing pressure in river, a fishing farm has to be built. This will enable the feeding live fish for the gharials thereby keeping the gharial´s hunters instincts alive.
This farm will encompass two types of pools: reproductive pools to breed small fish (to feed the young gharials) and growth pools to get larger fish (to feed the adults and sub-adults). All of the latter will provide the gharials with quality food in sufficient quantity.
The construction of a fishing farm is a low cost sustainable project. The fish will inturn be fed with organic garbage (like rice bran).
After discussions with Mr Kamal Jung Kunwar (Chief Warden of Chitwan National Park), it may be possible to build the fishing farm close to the gharial breeding centre. However in order to enable the construction of the fish farm, fences will have to be installed to prevent fish from escaping in the event of a big monsoon. The fish will be managed by the national park´s staff.
- Increase in food quality and quantity,
- Teach young gharials how to hunt
- Increase the survival rate of the animals at the breeding centre
- Create a sustainable alternative for river fishing.
To increase the number of young gharials, new yearling pools will have to be created. Young gharials are usually released after five years at the breeding pools, time after which they would have developed the right structures and size to be able to survive on their own in the wild.
All these new structures are very important but the existing structures must be looked after: pipe problems (faucet leak, pipe blocking…), fence problems (rotten beam, rusted wire fence…).
It is also advisable to reforest the area in order to increase the amount of shade in the enclosures as well as to improve the overall look of the latter. At present there are many dead trees in the area and therefore these could be felled and new ones replanted.
Expected results :
- Avoid gharial overpopulation problems in the pools
- Increase breeding centre survival rate,
- Permit fastest growth during the first 5 years
- Optimize breeding centre capacity,
- Decrease the stress of individual gharials
- Increase visitor number,
- Continue to make Kasara breeding centre as the world example of gharial conservation
Creation of a new breeding centre at Bardia National Park
The preservation and development of the gharial captive bank is very important for the conservation of the species. In this way, it is important to protect this bank from epizooties and other epidemic diseases, which could decimate all efforts that have been made in the last few years regarding gharial conservation. In order to avoid this problem, the creation of a breeding center like the one at Kasara will be the best solution.
New breeding centre construction
At Bardia National Park, there is another breeding centre. It is however less important than the one at Kasara. The Bardia center breeds especially Marsh muggers (second crocodile species that present in Nepal). After having visited the breeding center, considerable problems were noted in the pipe system and wire fences. It would therefore be wise to build a new center. Close to the existing centre is a field where the new breeding facilities could be built. This new centre is going to have to include breeding pools for reproductive gharials, a nursery for babies, post nursery pools for young gharials (1 year old), yearling pools for sub-adults and a fish farm.
Create a second breeding pool as productive as the one at Chitwan
Avoid the death of breed specimens in case of disease.
Survey of breeding gharials
The objective of the Kasara breeding centre is to breed gharials during 5 years to enable them to be released in the best conditions
For this reason, it will be very important to make regular check-ups of the captive gharials:
- A growth check (size, weight, survival rate…)
- A sanitary check, especially for young gharials (veterinary control each month).
To increase the genetic turnover during release, genetic analyses will have to be carried out of the released juveniles.
- Improve the scientific knowledge of captive gharials,
- Optimize gharial selection for release events.
To continue population awareness on environmental protection via the conservation of the gharial.
Through its visitor tourist information office, Kasara Breeding Centre has become one of the most important places of gharial conservation awareness in the world.
Ranger training in gharial conservation
The support of the Buffer Zone Community is necessary for the conservation of the gharial. Alongside the National Park officers, the rangers manage river banks and neighboring areas (for buffer zone part). It is therefore essential the establishment of rules concerning gharial habitat protection, which will benefit both the local people and the gharials.
- Establishment of measures to protect the gharial,
- Ranger support for ex-situ construction projects.
Buffer Zone Community participation on local people awareness
The support from the Buffer Zone Community is also necessary. The National Parks officers, manage the river banks and neighboring (for buffer zone part). It is therefore essential the establishment of rules concerning gharial habitat protection, which will benefit both the local people and the gharials..
- Establishment of measures to protect the gharial,
- Community support for ex-situ construction projects.
Local population involvement
Promoting the protection of rivers and aquatic species with the support from children. Collaboration will be seeked with some schools and orphanages located near the breeding center. The following activities are planned;
- Breeding centre tour,
- Presentations in schools or orphanages on gharial conservation but also rivers protection (short movie, pedagogic documents…)
- Exhibitions with drawings, paintings, poetry etc. in the visitor centre but also in hotels and village meeting places,
- Performances on day to day activities which are harmful to freshwater protection (fishing with long net, put garbage on river…).
To increase the participation of children, using events will be an advantage: The “Cait da saï” festival dedicated to Durga (end of March for 15 days) brings together hundreds Nepalese in breeding centre, the wildlife week (mid-April) and gharial released sessions. Involving children in these activities could increase the awareness on the importance of gharial conservation.
- Develop the awareness on gharial conservation and make it sustainable.
Bote and Musher, local ethnic group depend on the park´s rivers. They work everyday on the river banks and fish on their boats, They therefore have good knowledge of these rivers. The gharial conservation project has to make use of this knowledge and create an alert network. Thus should gharials be found in precarious situations, the rangers will be able to quickly intervene. The fishermen have to be able to contact the national park officers quickly.
Moreover, the national park officers will have to work alongside the fishermen to localise the nests of the crocodiles. This network will have to be developed in order to maximize the number of eggs collected.
- Create an alert network,
- Create an egg collection protocol
Involvement of the tourism sector
Other wildlife conservation workers can provide some help to this project, as are the National Park Guide Association members, who are in constant contact with the local fauna and flora. Like the rangers, they just need some knowledge on gharial biology and prospecting techniques.
These people can contribute to the gharial conservation work directly by prospecting the different areas or indirectly by making an observation list made during tourist “safari” outings. Moreover, they could be the link between the WWF and the local people (like fishermen) in bringing feedback information to the project.
Expected Results :
- Increase data and consequently knowledge on wild and released gharials
- Regular update of gharial status in park rivers.
Hotels could launch international awareness campaigns by presenting the children’s creations as well as through their own organized activities. Hotel guides will be capacitated along with the association members to be able to organize kayak safari trips to discover the gharial and its habitat.
- Increase data and consequently the knowledge on wild and released gharials,
- Increase the protection of the most threatened crocodile in the world.
To contribute, in the international context of Gharial Conservation Group (GCA), in reinforcing gharial conservation.
After the Gharial Conservation Group meeting in France (Montélimar, 2006), it was concluded that the gharial population had decreased by 70% in the wild. Nowadays about twenty members of the Crocodiles Specialists Group with many specialists of the world are trying to underline this problem. Their work on the reclassification of gharial on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) red list has lead to the reclassification of the gharial as “Critically Endangered” in May 2010.
For the above, experts from the different shared their knowledge on the species and their habitat with others. It is therefore important to have a significant referent for gharial conservation in Nepal. With technical and scientific knowledge from this project, it will be possible to make people more aware of the gharials ant their conservation.
At present, the species´ range is limited to mostly Nepal and India. Nepal therefore needs to be one of the key players in gharial conservation.
- Increase in the involvement of the Nepalese with regards to gharial conservation.
- For Nepal to become a referent in gharial conservation.
Collaboration between Nepal and India is necessary for gharial conservation. This cooperation will permit a common steady and legal protection to be carried out along the dam of the Indian border.
In India, the CSG has kept asked the Nepalese government to give its support to the conservation of gharials by establishing the egg-laying centers and supporting population awareness campaigns. Nepal has got around 400 wild and captive gharials, which makes up a quarter of world´s gharial population. Waiting for financial support from India might be important to extend the project past the Nepalese borders.
Moreover, some genetic problems may be encountered: some breeding centres have had the same animals for more than 20 years. With Nepal, India is the only other country, who has a breeding centre. The objective would therefore to establish a gharial specimen exchange program so that the genetic diversity of the species could be maintained and the survival probability of the latter increased.
- Enable a common program for gharial protection,
- Establish a gharial exchange program.