The Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand is really famous for its tigers…..well, surveys conducted by myself here in 2008 threw up a real big surprise…..The Corbett Tiger Reserve was also home to a crocodile on the verge of extinction…….and there were over a hundred of them here…..10 adult males....32 adults and 59 smaller ones.....!!!!
What made this discovery really exciting was that these crocodiles were none other than the Gharial…...who are known to prefer fast, free flowing rivers. Well, in Corbett Tiger Reserve they live in a lake…..and even breed here! Guess that this is one unique population…….of gharial!!!
Surveys conducted on the Gharial in Corbett National Park in 1974 showed only a few gharials surviving here…...about five and no adult males. The Ramganga River which flowed through the park was being dammed then and the researchers wondered if the gharial would survive the changes that would take place when a reservoir would be formed in place of the river…...I found out over three decades later in 2008 that the gharial had indeed adapted or rather were quite used to a lake—like environment.
The gharial in Corbett had a number of friends which included mugger crocodiles and freshwater turtles…...and to protect them were the brave officers and staff of Corbett Tiger Reserve and the Uttarakhand Forest Department.
When you visit Corbett Tiger Reserve do look out for the gharial…..its easy to find. It has a long, narrow snout and adult males have a bulb like structure at the tip of their snouts called a …. “Ghara” . In hindi this means Earthern Pot...and that’s where the gharial gets its name from.
We really need to find out more about the gharial in Corbett and its friends, the mugger crocodile and the freshwater turtles. The Uttarakhand Forest Department has given me permission to study these species for an initial period of five years….so watch this space for the latest happenings, anecdotes and photographs as we try to understand more about these wonderful creatures of Corbett.