Gharials are native to deep, fast-flowing rivers, but prefer calmer areas of these rivers such as river bends. They are adapted for life in perennial rivers, and are perhaps the most aquatic of all crocodilians. Though they spend most of their time in water, sandy banks are essential for building nests and for basking. Gharials prefer steep sandy banks to build their nests in.
Gharial habitat is also important habitat for many other riverine species, some of which are also endangered:
As sandy banks are vital for gharial nesting and basking the destruction of these banks and bars by sand-mining, erosion, and changing river levels poses a serious threat to the species. However gharials have used artificially created sand-banks in captivity for successful nesting and basking for many years. So some habitat managers have tried creating sand bars and banks in the wild in areas where natural banks and bars have been eroded or destroyed. These efforts have been successful,with gharials using these areas to bask and nest, indicating new possibilities for reclaiming degraded habitat areas.
Gharials now remain in only a small fraction of their historical range, in a few areas of India and Nepal. In the past they were found in the river systems of Pakistan, northern India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and in the lowlands of Bhutan and Nepal. The most important surviving populations are within four tributaries of the Ganges River: The Girwa, Son, and Chambal Rivers in India and the Rapti-Narayani River in Nepal. The most significant breeding population is within the Chambal River, which spans the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh.
Current : India, Nepal
Historical : India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar
India: Girwa River, Chambal River, Ken River, Son River, Mahanadi River, Ramganga River
Nepal: Rapti-Narayani River
Pakistan: Presumed Extinct
Bangladesh: Presumed Extinct **
Bhutan: Presumed Extinct
** A few gharials have been seen in Bangladesh but it is possible they have only been washed over the border from India. There is no evidence of breeding populations in Bangladesh.
The last surviving gharial populations are almost exclusively within Sanctuaries and National Parks. To learn more about the protected areas, click here.