The 5 ft,11-inch gharial was spotted at Nijalguri in Assam’s Chirang district Credit: EastMojo image 

Guwahati: A female gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) — an endangered crocodile species — was stoned to death by villagers after being spotted at Nijalguri area of Assam’s Chirang district recently.

As per sources, the 5-feet, 11-inch and 25.37-kg reptile surfaced in the waters of Aie river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra river, on October 8. After spotting it, a section of villagers allegedly killed the endangered animal by pelting stones at it after it sparked panic among them.

It was also informed that the juvenile reptile was stoned to death much before the forest officials could manage to reach the spot and rescue it from the hands of the frantic locals.

Meanwhile, local forest officials suspect that the endangered species must have strayed from a captive gharial breeding centre situated at Gelephu in the bordering country of Bhutan. However, it can be confirmed officially only after the genetic evidence reports of the reptile will be examined and released that is under process.

Speaking with EastMojo, deputy conservator of forests (western range) of Manas National Park, Brahmananda Patiri, revealed that this was not the first time this endangered species was spotted in the locality. Earlier too, on several other occasions, there were reports of sighting of gharials at several other parts of the district and one was even rescued from Hajo in 2001.

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“In 2008, one gharial was spotted by forest officials at a char area in Chirang itself and in 2006, I myself rescued one from the downstream of Aie Tokai river near Manas National Park,” Patiri added.

However, speaking on the latest incident, the forest official informed that it was very strange to spot a gharial in this particular location which is at a high altitude of nearly 200 metres above sea level. He further expressed that there can be two probabilities in this recent sighting, first being that the juvenile reptile must have strayed from a captive breeding centre in nearby Bhutan and the second it might have gone from the upstream of Brahmaputra river.

“However, we have not been conveyed of any missing gharial from our counterparts in Bhutan and it can be confirmed only after the genetic information of the dead reptile is released,” he added.

Notably, gharials got locally extinct from the river system of Assam since 1980 and issues like loss of habitat and common misconceptions among locals that gharials attack human have led to a decrease in the number of the species from the state’s river systems.

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