|Local Name:||Gharial (Urdu)|
|Warning:||Gharials can be dangerous at times. People should avoid swimming in lakes and rivers that are known to have Gharials.|
The gharial is the most long-snouted and together with the saltwater crocodile the largest of the living crocodilians (males up to 67m). Placed in a family by itself, the Gavialidae, the gharial has long been separated from the rest of the crocodilian stock (Densmore 1983). Adult males grow a bulbous nasal appendage, which resembles an Indian pot called a ‘ghara,’ from which the species derives its name. It has several functions attributed to it: a vocal resonator (which produces a loud buzzing noise during vocalisation), a visual stimulus to females, and the production of bubbles associated with sexual behaviour. The elongated jaws are lined with many interlocking, razor-sharp teeth – an adaptation to the diet (predominantly fish in adults). The gharial is poorly equipped for locomotion on land – the leg musculature is not suited to raise the body off the ground (to produce the ‘high-walk’ gait – being able only to push its body forward across the ground (‘belly-sliding’), although it can do this with some speed when required. It is, however, very agile in the water – the tail is well-developed and laterally flattened, and the rear feet possess extensive webbing.
Gharial are restricted to the northern part of the Indian subcontinent where they were found in four river systems: the Indus (Pakistan), the Ganges (India and Nepal), the Mahanadi (India) and the Brahmaputra (Bangladesh, India and Bhutan). Reports of gharial remaining in the Sind region of Pakistan are persistent (Ahmad 1990, Chaudhry 1993), but there appears to be a very small number, possibly only one or two individuals. The species is virtually extinct in Pakistan. The Pakistan government is currently planning a restocking effort with assistance from Indian institutions