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Satkosia wildlife sanctuary: No live fish on gharials’ menu

Times of India, New Delhi, December 1, 2014

Gharials, considered a critically endangered species, survive on live fish. But Satkosia wildlife sanctuary authorities are facing a shortage of the gharials' staple.


The aquatic reptiles enjoy eating slippery, live fish. But the nine captive adult gharials at the Tikarpada captive breeding centre in the sanctuary are given dead fish four days a week, official sources said.


A Central Zoo Authority (CZA) team has instructed the Satkosia authorities to build a pool in which live fish may be kept.


"We procure fish from local fishermen, who use hooks to catch small and medium fish and they are paid for it. The fishermen usually catch the fish from Mahanadi river, where fishing using nets has been banned. So, we get a very small quantity of fish from them," said Sayed Rahman, divisional forest officer, Satkosia wildlife sanctuary.


He said an adult gharial requires about 300gm of fish a day. "We keep the surplus fish in big pots since we are yet to build a fish pool. Many of them die and we have to feed gharials the dead fish," said Rahman.


A two-member team from CZA, which visited the captive breeding centre on Saturday, asked the authorities to serve live fish only. "They reviewed the Tikarpada mini zoo and asked us to construct a fish pool to keep sufficient stock of live fish. The CZA has taken note of lack of infrastructure at the breeding centre. They are expected to provide us funds for the fish pool," said Rahman.


Captive breeding of the gharials has also been hit due to want of male gharials. "We have eight female gharials and one male. We have requested the Nandankanan zoo authorities to provide us at least five male gharials for mating to increase the gharial population. We are planning to bring only well-grown gharials here so that they can survive in captivity," said a senior wildlife officer.


Official sources said the gharial population at the sanctuary started dwindling a decade ago. About 800 small gharials, which had been released in the wild, vanished. The authorities said that while most of them became prey to big crocodiles, some died of natural causes.


Besides, the sanctuary has 90 muggers, all of which are in the wild. After the breeding of the gharial starts, the authorities will release some of them into the wild. However, after they are leased, nearby villagers will be asked to stop fishing as the authorities believe many gharials released into the wild have died in the past because of fishing.