Twelve ghariyals from Patna zoo would soon be relocated to Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Bettiah. They are being trained to survive in the wild.
The forests and environment department has approved the proposal. Confirming the development, chief conservator of forests-cum-chief wildlife warden, Bihar, B.A. Khan, told The Telegraph on Monday: “Twelve ghariyals from Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park would be taken to Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR) this winter.”
Patna zoo has 100 ghariyals. S. Chandrashekhar, director, Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park, said: “The ghariyals that would be transferred to the VTR are six to seven years old. Most of them are 5-foot-long. They are being fed living fish now.”
The reptiles in captivity are usually fed dead fish. “We are also planning to enlist the help of agencies like Wildlife Trust of India and World Wildlife Fund,” he said.
According to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global body working for wildlife conservation, the total breeding population of ghariyals in the world was less than 200 in 2007. It has been classified as a “critically endangered” species.
“During a survey over a 280-km stretch of the Gandak, we found 30 ghariyals near the VTR in Bagaha block in 2010. Since the reptiles have been listed as critically endangered, we thought it necessary to augment their numbers by introducing more ghariyals in the wild,” said Gopal Sharma, a scientist of the Zoological Survey of India, Patna.
Santosh Tiwari, conservator-cum-director, VTR, told The Telegraph that several ideal locations have been identified in the Gandak near the Valmiki Nagar range for the reptiles.
Sources at Patna zoo said after the ghariyals, some rhinoceroses could also be introduced into the wild, as there has been a sudden surge in the breeding of the horned mammal at Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park. A male and a female rhinoceros calves were born at the zoo on September 6 and 16, respectively.
The forests and environment department would be organising a number of activities, including quiz, painting, photography, fancy dress and skit competitions, at Patna zoo between October 2 and 8.