Researchers Discover Secret Breeding Ground of World’s Most Endangered Crocodile
by Jason Daley/Smithsonian.com
Stumbling into a secret crocodile breeding ground is likely more startling than exciting for most people—unless you’re a scientist and those crocs just happen to be one of the world’s most endangered reptiles. That’s what happened to researchers from the Zoological Society London (ZSL) and Biodiversity Conservancy Nepal when they found a group of adult gharial crocodiles, watching over 100 hatchlings deep inside Nepal’s Bardia National Park.
The species, Gavialis gangeticus, has not been recorded breeding in the borders of the park since 1982. Gharial crocodiles are oddball reptiles with bulging eyes and a narrow toothy snout. In adulthood, they can reach 16 feet in length and weigh up to 550 pounds.
But the population has dropped 98 percent since the 1940s, according to a ZSL press release. The crocs are now listed as critically endangered by the IUCN, which administers the global endangered species list, with only 650 to 900 mature individuals left in 14 locations in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. The species has already gone extinct in the nations of Bhutan, Myanmar and Pakistan