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Text: Reptiles.
Indian Gavial
Photo: Indian Gavial, Gavialis gangeticus.
Indian gavial, Gavialis gangeticus
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Where are they found? Asia

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The Indian gavial (or gharial) is one of the rarest crocodile species in Asia. For a long time, it was in no danger from humans, because it was dedicated to the god Vishnu and considered holy. But, although officially protected since the 1970s, the number of gavials has declined rapidly. A trade in skins and incidental killing by fisherfolk are principal causes. Increased river traffic and agriculture have also had an adverse effect. The species has become critically endangered throughout its range, which includes all major rivers and waterways of northern India and Burma (Myanmar). In 2006, the wild population was estimated to be 200 or less.

The Indian gavial is the crocodilian most strictly limited to life in the water. Its legs are quite weak, but its rear feet are extensively webbed and its oar-like tail is particularly powerful. It will usually leave the water only to bask or nest.

The females become mature when they reach about 3 m (10 ft.) in length (at least 10 years old). A female will lay 30 to 50 eggs on land, usually on sandbanks. The young are about 40 cm (16 in.) long when they hatch. They grow to be quite large: males can reach a length of more than 6 m (20 ft.).

The most striking characteristic of the Indian gavial is the long, narrow snout—it is about three and a half times longer than its breadth at the base. This long snout, with its razor-sharp teeth, is an excellent tool for grasping fishes and frogs, but it is not powerful enough for larger prey. The Indian gavial is generally a pale olive-to-tan colour, with dark blotches on the body and tail.

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“Indian Gavial”. [Online]. Natural History Notebooks. Canadian Museum of Nature.
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