The Hush Post: The Indian variety of crocodiles, the gharials, were released into the Beas river at Gagrewal village, 30 km from Tarn Taran on Monday by the Punjab Wildlife Department and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWFN) with the help of the Punjab Forest Department. After protests by the Kisan Sangharsh Committee in Taran Tarn, the site to release gharials was shifted to this village, which has plenty of sand banks to provide space to the animal to soak under the sun.

The 3-year-old fish eating reptiles were brought from the Chhatbir Zoo in Mohali in a special truck, said district forest officer (DFO) Charanjit Singh. As many as 25 gharials were brought from Madhya Pradesh and have been kept at the Chhatbir zoo from where only 10 of them were transported here. After an extensive survey, WWF experts had recommended that the Harike sanctuary and its immediate catchment areas were the best sites for releasing these animals. The department could not release these gharials at Harike wetland due to protest from farmers from some villages apprehending threat to human life and crops. Farmers had recently sent a memorandum to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on their opposition to the release of gharials. “If the state government wants to release the reptiles in the wetland, it should purchase farm land of the farmers falling near the river. We will not allow the government to release the animals in the river,” the memorandum had said.

However, wild life officials have clarified that the gharial is a shy reptile and does not attack human being or any animal. The departments have been working on the project for the past decade. In 2005, the Punjab State Wildlife Board had recommended the reintroduction of wild gharials in the Beas river area as it is less polluted than the Sutlej and the reptile is at the top of the food chain in freshwater sources and is required in greater numbers in the area to complete the food chain.

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