Corbett has two of India’s three crocodilian species. It is considered to be one of the best spots to see the Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), one of the largest and most endangered crcodilians of the world. It is found only in the Indian subcontinent. It gets its name from the ‘ghara’ or pot like structure on the snout that is present only in males.
The gharial’s slender snout is adapted to eat fish so it does not attack humans or larger mammals. Young gharials may eat invertebrates and insects.
About 100 gharials live in the Ramganga and can be seen swimming in its deep pools or basking in the sun on its banks. These were released as part of the conservation programme for gharials. Though it has been saved from extinction, the gharial is still critically endangered. The main threats are – loss of habitat (fast-flowing rivers) and nesting sites (sandbanks) due to construction of dams and barrages which changes the flowage of water and exploitation of fish by humans (depletion of prey species).
The still waters of Corbett, especially the Ramganga reservoir, are home to the Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris). Muggers are more general carnivores and take a variety of animals as food. Muggers are also found in Nakatal, Corbett’s only lake.
Winter is not the best time to notch up an impressive list of reptiles in the two countries, but nevertheless two of the most impressive species of snake were noted, along with both species of crocodile.
Garial Crocodile: This long-snouted fish-eater was seen at Dhikala in Jim Corbett National Park, where several were seen sunning on the opposite side of the lake to the camp.
Mugger Crocodile: Small numbers were seen ins at Corbett corocodile pool.
Crocodile Conservation Project Gharial was reintroduced in Ramganga: The Crocodile Conservation Project was launched in 1976. The main aim of the project was to save India’s three endangered crocodilian species, namely the freshwater crocodile, the saltwater crocodile and the gharial. This involved intervention measures like:
Captive breeding of species
Collection of eggs from natural habitat, subsequent hatching and rearing of crocodiles/gharials in captivity to reduce mortality due to natural predators and finally released into the wild. The Gharial Rehabilitation Project formed a subunit of the umbrella Crocodile Conservation Project.
This focussed on gharial, which had come very close to extinction in 1974. As part of the Gharial Rehabilitation Project, more than 250 gharials were released in the Ramganga river in Jim Corbett National Park between 1982 and 1994.
Indian Python: Four very large Indian Pythons, each measuring about two and a half in length, were seen at corbett park - two at Python Point and two near the second checkpoint.
King Cobra: A two-metre King Cobra was found sunning itself in the forest near Corbett Park.