CHITWAN, March 12: At least seven gharials in the Rapti River of Chitwan National Park (CNP) area have been found dead in this current fiscal year. Some of them were found entangled in fishing nets, which could have potentially killed them.
Along with the seven dead gharials, CNP chief conservation officer Bed Kumar Dhakal said they have also rescued seven gharials from fishing nets.
“The gharials are trapped into the nets laid by people who fish illegally. These nets are killing the endangered reptiles,” he added.
Dhakal was referring to big and strong nets, known locally as Tiyari. Once trapped, it is almost impossible for these gharials to free themselves from the nets. They then die of injuries or hunger.
It is illegal to fish using Tiyari nets. However, some locals illegally use it at night time for fishing. The authorities have found that many Tiyari nets have been used in the current fiscal year.
The national park office said they are preparing to file cases against the locals in the three cases where three gharials were found dead inside such nets.
Those who have registered themselves for fishing can use hand nets and other traditional methods for fishing, informed CNP officer Dhakal.
Narayani and Rapti rivers are the two main habitats for Nepal’s gharials. Apart from the two rivers, they are also found in a small numbers in Karnali and Babai rivers. Dhakal informed Republica that a 2018 survey found that there are 219 gharials in CNP and the surrounding areas.
The gharials are only found in Nepal and the southern neighbor India. However, they are becoming extinct due to destruction of their habitats and scarcity of preys.
River pollution, scarcity of fishes, poisons used for killing fishes, destruction of habitats and excessive extractions of raw materials from rivers are some of the threats pushing the reptile towards extinction, according to conservationists.