Rising tide: why the crocodile-like gharial is returning to India’s rivers

The bulbous-nosed reptiles were in critical decline until conservationists stepped in

As the sunlight pierces the fog, a fisherman on a boat floating along the Gandak River in Bihar, India, spots a magnificent reptile basking on a sandbar in the middle of the river. Most people would mistake it for a crocodile but its distinctive snout tipped with a bulbous mass and elongated jaw tell him it is a gharial.

Gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) are often mistaken for crocodiles or alligators. They are the only species in the Gavialidae family: river-dwellers that eat only fish and some crustaceans, and which split from all other crocodilians perhaps more than 65m years ago.

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