“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
Gharials aka the Fish eating crocodiles, Mugger crocodiles or Indian crocodiles, Hawksbill Turtle, Long headed sea turtles, Leatherback sea turtles, the Northern river terrapin, Red-crowned Roofed Turtle, Green turtle, Indian peacock softshell turtle, Burmese python. All these above listed reptiles fall in one of the critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable categories according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (ICUN) red list. This mean that these animals require an immediate attention for conservation. There is a ban imposed by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) on any products derived from these animals, as listed in CITES Appendix 1. Alongside this, there also exists a ban on hunting indigenous snakes and other reptiles in India according to the wildlife protection act of 1972. The ‘Project Crocodile’ began in 1975 by the Indian Government with the aid of United Nations Development Fund and Food and Agriculture Organisation. Presently in India, the Madras Crocodile Bank, Crocodile farm in Sundarbans, Chambal National Sanctuary at Bhopal etc. host facilities to rear naturally laid crocodile eggs in necessaries. The Madras Crocodile Bank (MCB) which was set up in 1976 is noted both as a herpetological research station as well as a reptile park. This crocodile park is deemed to be the first crocodile breeding centre in Asia. It comes under the purview of Central Zoo Authority, the Ministry of Environment, and Forest, and the Government of India. Before MCB, Nandankanan Biological Park in Orissa attempted captive breeding of Crocodiles.
Ghararials on the other hand are protected by Nehru Zoological Park at Hyderabad, Indira Gandhi Zoological Park in Vizag, National Chambal Sanctuary, and Kamal Nehru Prani Sagrahalay in Indore, M.P. The Gharial conservation is a huge success. An estimation states that by 1976, the total wild Gharial population dipped to less than 200, where there were about 5000 to 10000 in the 1940s. Another source states that there were about 436 adult Gharials, which then declined to some 182 in 2006 in the wild. Due to conservation efforts, by 2004 about 5000 gharials were released into the wild from a total egg collection of about 12000 from various in-situ and ex-situ conservation programs. In December 2010, the Indian minister for Environment and Forest, Mr. Jayram Ramesh during his visit to the Madras Crocodile bank announced the formation of a National Tri-State Chambal Sanctuary Management and Coordination Committee for the conservation of Gharials in a 1600 Sq. KM area, along the Chambal river that flows towards north-northeast through Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Utter Pradesh, where it joins the Yamuna.
Turtles lay their eggs in the sea shore by digging a pit in the sand. Once they are done laying eggs, they close the pits and go back into the sea. Anthropological activities around these pits may pose a threat to these eggs, especially to those of critically endangered, endangered, and vulnerable kinds. Hence, human interference near the coastal areas has been regulated to ensure the safety of these eggs. The Charles Darwin centre at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island which is specialised in captive breeding of the Galapagos Tortois, claims to release at least a thousand of the species into the wild per year, while the Komodo Dragon is protected in its natural habitat via the in-situ conservation method in Komodo National Park, Indonesia. Turtles are being captive bred in India along with Australia, Cayman Islands, Mexico, Seychelles, and the Asian countries like Indonesia, Philippines.
In the years 1988 – 1989, in order to conserve Turtles, the Olive riddle sea turtle hatchery was established in Madras. Thereafter, in Sundarbans, the Pakhiralaya hatchery was set up which was dedicated to the Batagur Terrapins. Alongside these, Fresh water turtle rearing centres were started in Keolade National Park, Chambal sanctuary- Madhya Pradesh, Bharathpur Bird Sanctuary etc. The task of conserving threatened marine turtles is being accomplished by the Central Marine Research Institute. Irrespective of all these measures, afforestation and forest resource protection is always the best method to conserve diversity. Loss of habitat of wild animals is the chief cause for man animal conflicts, where causality mostly occurs on the wilder side.
Deepak Tarun is a post graduate in Zoology. Not one to embrace anything at its face value, Deepak believes in really digging to the roots, before arriving at a decision. A budding wildlife biologist and passionate knowledge seeker, Deepak likes to read, and watch stand-up comedy in his spare time.