SUBIR MARIO CHOWFIN
Organization: The Gadoli and Manda Khal Wildlife Conservation Trust
Research: The Crocodilian and Freshwater Turtle Research and Conservation Project
Species/Topic: Gharial, Mugger and Freshwater Turtles
The Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR), a very highly rated Protected Area in the State of Uttarakhand, India, consisting of the Corbett National Park and the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary, is home to the third largest breeding population of adult gharial globally. It contributes 20% to the estimated global population of 200 - 250 adults of the taxon and it is also the only known population of the taxon which lives predominantly in a lake-like environment. CTR was surveyed for gharial in 2008 which was the first systematic survey with regard to the taxon since 1974 and the metapopulations was found distributed amongst six sub-populations in the Sarpduli, Dhikala, Kalagarh, Sonanadi, Palain and Adnala Ranges of the Reserve with an estimated population of 42 adults inclusive of 10 adult males and 59 smaller size classes. Our surveys in 2013 have documented 10 adult males, 39 adults, 16 sub-adults, 4 juveniles, 2 yearlings and 350-400 hatchlings in Corbett National Park alone indicating a 17% increase in the adult population in Corbett National Park during this five year period with the main sub-population at Dhikala showing a 77.8% increase in adult gharial numbers during this period. These results are indicative that the Corbett National Park which is free from many man induced anthropogenic pressures like irrigation canals, artificial embankments, sand mining, harvesting of gharial eggs for food, use of fishing nets in which gharials get entangled and drown, river use by domestic cattle and cultivation of seasonal vegetables at nesting and basking sites as often seen in other crocodile sanctuaries in the country is a safe haven for these species. Tourism is a regulated activity in the Reserve, with little or no access for tourists to gharial, thereby further reducing disturbance to these animals here.