As part of the pioneering exchange to initiate breeding of the critically endangered Gharials, the male, named ‘Gorai’ has made it to the Rajshahi Zoo after a long journey starting all the way from Dhaka Zoo.
‘Gorai’ was released in a water body of the Gharial enclosure at Rajshahi Zoo around 9:20am, ABM Sarowar Alam, principal Gharial investigator of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bangladesh, told The Daily Star.
The exchange programme has been initiated to establish breeding facilities of captive Gharials among Bangladesh National Zoo (Dhaka), Rangpur Zoo, Rajshahi Zoo and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Safari Park, Gazipur.
Bangladesh Forest Department officials and members of IUCN and Rajshahi Zoo were present when ‘Gorai’ was released.
A basking zone and a place to lay eggs has also been arranged within the enclosure at Rajshahi Zoo and it is completely ready for breeding, Sarowar said.
Meanwhile, a female from Rajshahi Zoo, named ‘Jamuna’ was released into the Gharial enclosure at Dhaka Zoo yesterday around 11:00am, he added.
Why the exchange?
In a report published in The Daily Star on August 12, ABM Sarowar Alam was quoted as saying that “there is not a single pair [of Gharials] in the country's zoos. This is the reason why there is no breeding for so long. But now we are trying to breed exchanging the males and females of the species”.
A recent study “Gharials of Bangladesh” conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Department of Forest and funded by the World Bank to ascertain the number of captive Gharials in Bangladesh zoos revealed this information.
The study finds four females in Rangpur, four males in Dhaka, one male in Bangabandhu Safari Park and two females in Rajshahi.
A total of four adult males have been kept in Dhaka Zoo since their rescue from fishermen's net between 1983 and 1997. The males are healthy, but as there have been no females there is no breeding.
Two adult females reside in Rajshahi Zoo. In the enclosure, there is a circular small island in the centre. Lack of gentle slope makes it difficult for the Gharials to reach the island for basking.
Four adult females are kept in Rangpur Zoo. The zoo has very poor facilities for basking and nesting of Gharials.
A young male of 115cm long has been kept at Bangabandhu Safari Park in Gazipur.
There are only 11 captive Gharials in the zoos, while sightings of 58 others were reported in the major rivers. As many as 39 sightings were reported in the Padma, 17 in the Jamuna and one each in the Brahmaputra and the Mahananda rivers.