The state forest department has taken up the task of breeding gharials — fish-eating crocodiles — in an artificial environment at the mini zoo in Rasikbil in Cooch Behar, around 770km northeast of Kolkata along National Highway 12.
Located in Tufanganj-II block of Cooch Behar, the zoo is spread across 20.17 hectares and has an enclosure for gharials. The zoo also has two leopards, two pythons, a fishing cat, three peacocks and over 100 spotted deer.
“We have 11 gharials, of which nine are female. Eggs the females had laid earlier decomposed before the hatchlings could emerge because of bad weather. We have collected 66 eggs and kept them in a chamber where the condition was conducive to hatching,” said Sanjit Kumar Saha, divisional forest officer of Cooch Behar.
“The incubation period is 60 to 90 days,” Saha said.
Gharials, foresters said, are an endangered crocodile species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) as a critically endangered species that needs conservation.
Mukesh Sarkar, supervisor of the zoo, said they had learned about artificial breeding from the authorities of Nandankanan Zoological Park in Odisha.
“If we succeed, ours will be the first such centre of gharial breeding in north Bengal,” said Sarkar.