U.S. Water News Online
LUCKNOW, India -- At least 21 endangered crocodile-like
reptiles have died mysteriously in a river sanctuary in central
India, raising fears one of India's last unpolluted waterways has
become toxic, officials said.
Wildlife officials discovered the bodies of one male and 20 female
gharials -- massive reptiles that look like their crocodile
relatives, but with long slender snouts -- in the Chambal River, said
Sri Kishna, a government official in Uttar Pradesh state.
The deaths have concerned conservationists, who believe there are
only some 1,500 gharials left in the wild, many of them in a
sanctuary based along the Chambal, one of the few unpolluted Indian
"The deaths of such a large number of gharials is not common.
There has to be something wrong with the river water," said state
Chief Wildlife Warden D.N.S. Suman.
Scientists said it appeared either the water or fish, the
gharials' main food, were contaminated as there were no signs of
injuries to any of the animals.
"This could be due to high bacterial content in the Chambal
River," said Alok Srivastava, of the Uttar Pradesh state Pollution
Control Board. "The river water may have turned poisonous. We do not
know why and how."
Tests were being made on the water and the dead reptiles, said
B.C. Chaudhary, a senior scientist at the government-run Wildlife
Institute of India.
The gharial, also known as the Indian crocodile, was on the verge
of extinction in the 1970s, but a government breeding program that
has released several hundred into the wild has raised their numbers.
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