Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park: After villagers say no to shifting, 15 gharials in troubled waters

In all, about 50 gharials were to be reintroduced in the Harike Wetland which is at the border of districts Tarn Taran and Ferozepur in Punjab.

Written by Shub Karman Dhaliwal | Chandigarh | Published:September 19, 2016 3:56 am
gharial, Harike Wildlife Sanctuary, Punjab Forest, Wildlife Department, Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park, Chhatbir Zoo, news, latest news, Chandigarh news, India news, national news Gharial at Chhatbir Zoological Park near Chandigarh. (Photo by Subhkarman Dhaliwal)

With residents of the villages located on the periphery of the Harike Wildlife Sanctuary not agreeing to the release of gharials (Gavialis Gangeticus) in the wetland, the Punjab Forest and Wildlife Department has been put in a dilemma. This has also posed a problem for the authorities at Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park or Chhatbir Zoo from where 15 gharials were to be shifted. With the reptiles growing in size, the zoo authorities are concerned that soon the space to keep them might not be enough.

In all, about 50 gharials were to be reintroduced in the Harike Wetland which is at the border of districts Tarn Taran and Ferozepur in Punjab. Besides breeding gharials at the Chhatbir Zoo, these were to be brought from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The proposal has been hanging fire for the past two years.

As of now, there are 15 gharials at Chhatbir Zoo which are two years old and are around 1.50 metres in length which have been put on display. The reptiles are daily fed with fish, which is their natural diet.

After chalking out a proposal to release the gharials in the Harike Wetland, the department had also taken required permission from the Union Environment Ministry and other authorities concerned some months ago. These reptiles, which love to move around in running fresh water, have not been put on public display by the zoo authorities.

“We are trying hard to educate people of the villages surrounding the Harike Wetland that gharials are docile creatures and never attack human beings. No incident of gharials attacking human beings has been reported so far from anywhere,” said Dhirendra Singh, Chief Wildlife Warden, Punjab.

“Always, this is a long-term process. Whenever any such reptile is released in the fresh water streams anywhere, it is a natural process to take people of the area concerned into confidence before the release,” said Dhirendra Singh.

However, former chief wildlife warden Gurmeet Singh said that it appeared that the state government was not interested in releasing the gharials in the Harike Wetland. “The government is more interested in running buses in the Harike water stream and not keen on promoting the wetland at the international level,” he said.

Tips on gharials

The zoo authorities on Sunday organised a workshop-cum-training session for its staff members pertaining to gharials. Soham Mukherjee, a reptile expert, gave tips and apprised the staff members of the handling, seasonal behaviour changes, methods and techniques to follow while catching a gharial. Mouse deer on display

The cheverotain, also known as mouse deer, one of the new animals that arrived at the zoo in April, now has its own shelter. Because of its unique appearance and very small size, the animal can’t be kept in an open shelter as it can become an easy prey. So keeping in mind the safety measures, an enclosure was prepared for it.