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Alien

Juvenile Indian gharial

The Director's Cut of Alien, Ridley Scott's classic horror film, was released to cinemas recently. However, despite the additional footage that was reinserted, one stage in the alien's lifecycle was considered too frightening to be restored. Here we bring you an exclusive photograph of the alien as you've never seen it before.

Actually, otherworldly though this creature appears, it is nothing more frightening than an Indian gharial, one of the most unusual and fascinating of the 23 crocodilian species left on Earth. Gharials have long been responsible for heated arguments amongst taxonomists as to their evolutionary relationship with other crocodiles, especially the false gharial Tomistoma schlegelii. Gharials have a unique shape to the skull, their orbits almost bulging upwards from the cranium. Combined with their slender jaw lined with needle-sharp teeth, and they appear quite disarming particularly when viewed from the front like this - a fish eye's view, if you like, for gharials prey almost exclusively on fish.

This striking photograph was brought to us by Baz Kanda, taken at the Madras Crocodile Bank in India. Gharials were once considered the most endangered of all crocodilian species until pioneering efforts to reintroduce them into the wild took place in India. However, that security is threatened once more, and Rom Whitaker of the Madras Croc Bank believes that gharials are in very serious and imminent danger as their lifeline has been severed - no further reintroductions, imminent loss of key habitat, and a burgeoning human population that does not tolerate the presence of this amazing species. Their loss would be an incalculable one.


Would you like to enter your best photograph into the 2003 competition? Send me a photograph and I'll include the best here each month. The winner will be voted for in January 2004, and will receive an Ilford Cibachrome print prize to be awarded in early 2004. The only criteria for submitting a photograph is this: it must capture the attention.


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