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Out of the Frying Pan...

Hatching gharial

This month's picture was taken by Nikhil Whitaker at the Madras Crocodile Bank in India, and highlights one of the most disarming of all baby crocodilians: a hatching Indian Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus). Nik has managed to create a really striking image of a hatchling which, take it from me, is much harder than it looks!

But there is a deeper significance to this photograph. Gharial are not having a good time of it. After they skirted extinction in the early 1970s, conservation programs brought them back from the brink. Everyone sighed with relief as the efforts seemed to be working. But by 2005 it was starting to become apparent that all was not well with wild gharial populations overall, and in 2006 it was estimated that there may be less than 130 gharials left in the wild anywhere. The Chambal River in India appears to be their last stronghold.

But it is not too late for the gharial. Conservation efforts are still ongoing, and were galvanised in 2006 by the formation of the Gharial Multi-Task Force spearheaded by Rom Whitaker and a group of dedicated gharial specialists. They have successful applied to have the IUCN Red List criteria updated from "Endangered" to "Critically Endangered" which, while not exactly good news, is a step in the right direction to getting positive conservation action going for this unique species.

Would you like to enter your best photograph as a potential Pic of the Month? Send it to me and I'll include the best here each month. Each year I run a competition where the best photograph each year is awarded a prize. To be in contention the picture must, above all, capture your attention.


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