Despite best intentions and initial successes ultimately past conservation efforts failed to secure gharial populations. Several factors contributed to this failure:
Timeline of Past Conservation Efforts and Gharial Populations
1940s: An estimated 5,000-10,000 gharials roamed from the Indus River in present-day Pakistan 3,000 km eastward across the Gangetic plain to the Irrawady River in Myanmar.
1970: S. Biswas reports gharials vanished from Kosi River, recommended further surveys.
1973: Team from Madras Snake Park carry out extensive surveys of rivers, find only 200.
1975: Project Crocodile set up with Indian Government and United Nations Development Program Food and Agriculture Organization (UNDP-FAO). 240 kms of habitat set aside in 6 gharial sanctuaries. 16 rearing centers set up for “head-starting” program. Crocodile biologist training center set up in Hyderbad (later became Wildlife Institute of India).
1975-1992: 5,000 head-started gharial released.
1992: Ministry of Environment and Forests of India calls a halt to captive rearing of gharials and withdraws funds.
1992-1999: Dedicated gharial conservationists try to carry out surveys when possible along with their own work, but no systematic surveys carried out by Forest Departments.
Mid-1990s: Bandits that kept most people out of Chambal river are apprehended, region comes under control of resource exploiting “mafias”.
1996: Project Crocodile declared a success and money withdrawn.
1999-2003: No gharial surveys conducted.
2004: Crocodile researcher Dr. R.K. Sharma reports gharial numbers in wild have plummeted. Gharial Multi-Task Force created by concerned conservationists.
2006: Survey indicates less than 200 mature breeding adults left in the wild. Application made by GMTF to the IUCN to change gharial status from “Endangered” to “Critically Endangered” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
2007: The gharial is officially listed as “Critically Endangered” in 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Surveys to date indicate around 200-250 mature breeding adult gharials in the wild, spread across fragmented habitats.
The Gharial Multi-Task Force changes its name to Gharial Conservation Alliance