The Miracle Clutch: Part One
As I surveyed Corbett in 2008 the gharial population threw up regular surprises but one of the most astonishing incidents took place on the 10th of April, 2008, probably the first day of our nesting surveys.
The field team was surveying the Palain River by boat and as our boat operator, Nandan Singh Rawat, from the Corbett Tiger Reserve, kept a steady hand on the outboard motor, I was scanning the river ahead with my binoculars. No signs of nesting on the banks was creating a demoralizing effect but I was eager to get near about Kakdi Dhang on the Palain where I had recorded perhaps for the first time ever a gharial population here…..as we approached the meandering curves near Kakdi Dhang I waited with baited breath. The water was lower than before and had receded quite a bit…..
I was about to request our boatman to turn around when a white mass on the wet mud on one of the banks caught my eye…..Curious to know what it was I asked Nandan to maneuver the boat to near about it…..as we approached closer we wondered what it was…..and as we came alongside it hit us….this was no ordinary find….we we were looking at a clutch of crocodile eggs…...unbelievable….crocs lay their eggs in a nest hole and cover it with sand...this clutch was lying in an exposed condition on wet mud with no sign of any attempt of a nest hole being dug around the area…..and these eggs were still covered with moist, wet mucous...obviously laid a few minutes before we reached the area….the big question was whether they were gharial or mugger eggs….so we decided to find out and let nature hatch them….!!!!
The eggs still moist with mucous were placed carefully in a tray we were carrying and a nearby site which showed intense gharial nesting activity was chosen to rebury the eggs....cause if there was a gharial nest laid here the reburied clutch would also be tended to by the parent at the time of hatching......
The site near Kakdi Dhang showing intense gharial nesting activity....choosen to rebury the eggs...!!
We dug an artificial nest hole at this site and placed 15 of the eggs in it out of the 17; as two eggs had their egg shells ruptured....we covered this spot with a flat stone to prevent predators from digging up the nest....the stones were also good insulators....preventing the sand from getting to hot by day and providing heat at night when temperatures dropped.....
The artificial nest covered with a flat stone to prevent predators from digging up the eggs and overheating or undue chilling..!!
(To be continued.....)