Updated: Oct 19, 2020
The Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), also known as the fish-eating crocodile, is one of Untamed Photography’s highlights when running our Ranthambore Tiger photography tours. This crocodilian attains a total length of 6.5m making it one the longest crocodilians on earth. This Fish-eating crocodilian is critically endangered but due to conservation efforts, the population has started to increase. The Gharial is most commonly known for its well-designed snout for eating fish that make up 96% of its diet. The main diet of the Gharial is primarily fish that inhabit the rivers of India and Nepal. With the Gharial’s interestingly designed elongated snout and many sharp teeth, it can easily catch fish. Once a fish has been caught, the Gharial will raise its head out of the water and then backward. With a sideward jerk, the mouth will open, and the fish will drop headfirst into the Gharial’s mouth. Frogs are also common on the menu, but birds and small mammals are very rarely eaten. Its well-designed skull contains well-adapted teeth that interlock by pointing out and away from the skull on the top and bottom jaws. This, along with its slender jaw, makes it amazingly easy for catching prey under water.
The Gharial, or fish-eating crocodile, is known as the most aquatic of all crocodilians. The large individuals congregate in deep pools on the sides of rivers where the smaller individuals choose to spend most of their time around shallower areas where it is safe. When the waters of the rivers become cooler, Gharials will bask on the side of the riverbanks to absorb most of the sun’s heat.
Males & Females
Male and Female Gharials are rather different when adults. Females grow up to a maximum of 3m where males grow up to 4m, but the all-time record of the largest male gharial is documented at 6.45m! The male and female snout are both smooth and thin, but the male does contain an obscure growth on the tip of the snout called the boss. This obscure growth, the boss, resembles an earthenware pot known as a Ghara, giving the name “Gharial” to this obscure crocodilian. This boss however is located over the nostrils and helps the males hiss and create a buzzing sound used in courting and territorial behaviour with one another. This is a very unusual feature for a crocodilian to have on its body for vocalisation, as other crocodilian species use mainly body vibrations and hissing along with body slaps in the water without the use of the boss. However, Gharials, along with their other cousins will use body vibrations and will hiss for communication to other individuals.
Approximately three or four weeks following copulation, the female will lay 20-40 eggs in the sand. The amount of eggs laid will depend on the size of the female (larger female Gharials will lay more than a smaller female). As we compare the eggs from all crocodilians such as the Nile Crocodile, the American Alligator and the Amazon Rainforests infamous Black Caiman, the Gharial is number one on producing the largest eggs. These large eggs are approx. 85-90mm by 65-70mm in size and weigh up to an astonishing 160g. The female will lay them on the banks of the river buried and protected by her like most crocodilians. They will stay incubated for 71-93 days. After incubation, just before the onset of the monsoon they will hatch and remain with their mother in the shallow waters until they are large enough to fish for themselves.
Are they Dangerous?
This prehistoric Gharial may look threatening and dangerous to humans, but they are not. Gharials will not attack and eat a human, as the jaw is too brittle if it were to attack large prey such as a human. If a human were to approach a gharial, the gharial would likely run into the water. If cornered, this crocodilian will attack only with its claws with its mouth open trying to be intimidating. The Mugger Crocodile however that lives and shares the rivers of the Gharial such as the Chambal River, is a threat to humans as the jaw and neck is designed to eat larger prey and not just fish like its neighbour, the Gharial.
The Chambal River is a tributary of the Yamuna River in central India, and thus forms part of the greater Gangetic drainage system. The Chambal River holds the National Chambal Sanctuary, also called the National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary, is a 5,400 km² tri-state protected area in northern India for the protection of the Critically Endangered gharial, the red-crowned roof turtle and the Endangered Ganges river dolphin.
Untamed Photography tours is proud to roam the Chambal River respectively keeping our distance and allowing photographers to create great images of the Gharials. Payment from our tours keeps the conservation of these endangered Gharials afloat in this protected area of the Chambal River in North West India outside of the Ranthambore National Park where our Tiger photo tours take place. We take pride in helping our eco tourists/photographers in getting the perfect photograph while making difference to increase chance of survival to this species.