Gharial crocodile translocation to Banke National Park, Nepal

Gharial on top of another larger gharial

Formally found in rivers across Nepal, Pakistan, Myanmar, India, and Bhutan, the Gharial crocodile has faced significant population declines, and today is extinct in most of these areas, occupying just 2% of its historic range. Gharials are listed as a critically endangered species with low genetic diversity, and this vulnerability is increasing in the face of climate change as the crocodiles are sensitive to changes in temperature, among other climate impacts.

With support from the Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund, WWF-Nepal and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation are addressing these challenges by translocating 10 gharials to a new and more suitable habitat: the West Rapti river in Banke National Park. This location was chosen because it has smaller temperature swings than their habitat in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, adequate sandy banks for basking and nesting, limited human activity and influence, and was once part of their natural range.

A team of wildlife biologists, freshwater specialists, and climate experts chose a 15.5 mile stretch of the West Rapti river in Banke National Park to translocate 10 adult gharials—five male and five female—from the Gharial Breeding Centre in Chitwan National Park. The translocated gharials will be tagged for monitoring purposes and will undergo an acclimatization period in enclosures with low water current, allowing them to acclimate to the new environment before being released into the wild.

To ensure the success of the project, an awareness campaign will be conducted among local communities near the park to promote their involvement in gharial conservation efforts and reduce potential human-wildlife conflict. An expert will also train three citizen scientists to monitor the gharials’ movement. Additionally, law enforcement agencies will be engaged with the project to strengthen gharial protection, as certain stretches of the river are adjacent to community forest areas.

Communication materials such as posters, brochures, and a video highlighting the project will be prepared and disseminated to raise awareness about the importance of gharial reintroduction and the role of communities in protecting the species.