OPCFHK Nature's Touch

Tracing the critically endangered gharial in the wild

The freshwater gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) is distributed in three rivers in India and one river in Nepal.  They are mainly threatened by the habitat alteration caused by dams and irrigation system construction projects, which lead to seasonal drying of rivers.  Local people may also hunt them for their eggs, penis and fats which are used in traditional medicine.  Moreover, the species has unfortunately experienced two mass die-offs.  The first resulted from poor protection and habitat encroachment which reduced the population by about 50% between 1997 and 2003.  The second decline occurred in the winter of 2007 to 2008, over a hundred of gharial died.  According to the necropsy conducted by a team of international veterinarians, the mass die-off was possibly caused by the combining effects of exposure to toxins, and renal failure due to the unusually cold weather. Now, only about 180 individuals remained in the wild and the species is listed as “critically endangered” in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
The Foundation supported a scientific research project in 2013/14 to save gharial from the brink of extinction.  The research team used radio tracker to trace the animals in the National Chambal Sanctuary, India, in order to study their movements, activities, behaviour and biological information, which helped to formulate suitable conservation measures.  Ken Leung and Vico Pat from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology joined the field work in India through our “University Student Sponsorship Programme”.  Let’s learn more about the front-line work over there in India!
The researcher is using a radio tracker to search for gharial.  If there is any tagged gharial within 2 km, the tracker will issue a beeping alert.
After detecting the signals, researchers will use telescopes for further observation, take photos and take record of other environmental factors like weather and temperature.
The students also visited the breeding centre and helped to take care of the gharials and other precious animals, including the Aldabra giant tortoise shown in the image. It is the second largest type of tortoise in the world!
This two-week field experience has enhanced students’ understanding on gharials and conservation.  They hope that more resources can be allocated to conservation here in Hong Kong.
The Body Shop is having its first collaboration with the Foundation to launch the limited-edition Fijian Water Lotus Eau de Toilette and Fragrance Mist, to raise funds for the Foundation.  The Body Shop® Voyage launches new Fijian Water Lotus Eau de Toilette and Fragrance Mist that contain 100% organic alcohol, handmade by Community Fair Trade farmers from Cotopaxi, Ecuador.  From August 28 to September 17, 2014, for each Fijian Water Lotus product sold, The Body Shop will donate HK$10 to the Foundation to support our work in Asian wildlife conservation. 
The first night safari of Friends of the Foundation took place in Tai Tam last Saturday. It was the first night safari for most of the participants too. In a summer night without rain, a lot of 'celebrities in the dark' showed up, including the colourful golden-spotted tiger beetle and the stick insect that looks so much like sticks or other bits
of plants when it stays still. We also spotted a few kinds of frogs with interesting body features such as an Asian common toad wearing black eye-line like a lady, a Günther’s frog that has blended-in with the surrounding area; and a green cascade frog with green back. What we couldn't miss were the twinkling fireflies, marking a perfect ending of the first night safari experience.
We need your help to sustain our efforts to conserve the wildlife. Join us as our member of the Friends of the Foundation (download application form) to help us fund more projects and save more species. Together we make a difference!
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Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong
Ocean Park, Aberdeen, Hong Kong