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Herps In The News Local or national articles where reptiles or amphibians have made it into the news media. Please cite sources.

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Old 01-24-2008, 03:58 PM   #1
wcreptiles
Dozens of Rare Reptiles Die in India

Dozens of Rare Reptiles Die in India

By BISWAJEET BANERJEE – 5 hours ago
LUCKNOW, India (AP) — Conservationists and scientists scrambled Tuesday to determine what has killed at least 50 critically endangered crocodile-like reptiles in recent weeks in a river sanctuary in central India.
Everything from parasites to pollution has been blamed for the deaths of the gharials — massive reptiles that look like their crocodile relatives, but with long slender snouts. The bodies, measuring between five and 10 feet long, have been found washed up on the banks of the Chambal River since early December, according to conservationists and officials.
The precise number of gharials that have died remains unclear, with the Gharial Conservation Alliance saying 81 bodies have been found since early December, butt Chief Wildlife Warden D.N.S Suman putting the number of dead animals at 50.
Conservationists believe there are only some 1,500 gharials left in the wild, many of them in a sanctuary based along the Chambal, one of the few unpolluted Indian rivers. The Chambal contains the largest of three breeding populations in the world.
In early December, officials found the bodies of at least 21 gharials over three days. The bodies have continued washing ashore in the weeks since.
The latest possible clue to what's killing the rare reptiles is an unknown parasite that scientists found in the dead gharials' liver and kidneys, according to Dr. A.K. Sharma of the Indian Veterinary Research Institute.
"We can say that liver and kidney of these gharials were badly damaged," said Sharma. "They were swollen and bigger than their usual size."
Other believe the gharials may have gotten sick and died after eating contaminated fish from the polluted Yamuna river, which joins the Chambal in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Pathological tests confirmed lead and cadmium in the bodies of the dead gharials, said Suman, the wildlife official.
"The Chambal river has clear water free from heavy metals. The only possibility seems that these gharials might have migrated from heavily polluted Yamuna river where they might have eaten fish," said Suman.
The gharial, also known as the Indian crocodile, was on the verge of extinction in the 1970s, but a government breeding program that has released several hundred into the wild has raised their numbers.
http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5j...6BH1gD8UARUFO0

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Deaths of Rare Crocodile in India Stir Alarm


By SAHER MAHMOOD
Published: January 22, 2008
NEW DELHI — Three decades after it was brought back from the brink of extinction, the rare Indian crocodile known as the gharial is turning up dead by the dozens on the banks of a river called the Chambal. Forest officials are at a loss to explain why.
Since mid-December, the National Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary has confirmed 76 deaths along the river, which begins in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and runs through Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Gadiraju Sudhakar, a Chambal district forest officer, said the initial post-mortem reports suggested the cause of death to be liver cirrhosis and stomach ulcers. Further tests show lead levels in the liver that “though not toxic, can trigger suppression of the immune system,” Mr. Sudhakar added. All the more puzzling, other species that inhabit the Chambal River ecosystem, including dozens of fish species on which the gharials feed, appear to be healthy.
Follow-up tests on the fish also revealed heightened lead content. But in both the fish and the gharials, the lead levels are below levels considered lethal, the forest official said. Environmentalists are pressing forest officials for answers on the source of the lead and why the crocodiles died while their prey were unaffected.
The gharial, native to South Asia, is one of the most endangered freshwater crocodile species. The World Wildlife Fund believes it is extinct in its former habitats of Pakistan, Bhutan and Myanmar .
An estimated 1,300 gharials are left in the wild, mostly in India, according to the fund. The World Conservation Union has recently upgraded it from being an “endangered” to a “critically endangered” species.
The recent deaths have further depleted the stock of breeding pairs to less than 200, conservationists and the forest department believe. The Indian government, under pressure from conservationists, set up protected areas in 1979 along the Chambal River to prevent poaching of their skin for high-grade crocodile leather, and it raises eggs in captivity to protect them from predators.
The Chambal is one of the cleanest rivers in the country, according to the Central Pollution Control Board in New Delhi. The forest department suspects that a possible source of lead could be the Yamuna River, which gathers industrial waste from the capital and several nearby industrial towns and meets the Chambal further downstream. Fish swim upstream in search of cleaner water, particularly during the monsoons.
No tests have been carried out yet to determine the source of the lead. Devendra Swarup, head of the veterinary medicine department at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Izatnagar, Uttar Pradesh, which conducted the liver tests on the dead gharials, emphasized the need for international expertise on this issue, which, if unresolved, could have “dire consequences” for the future of Indian wildlife.
Conservationists say the gharial deaths are important because they could be the first sign of river contamination and of potential threats to the rest of the ecosystem.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/22/sc...ml?ref=science

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Killer disease wipes out ghariyals
There's a mysterious disease stalking the gharial (the Indian crocodile). Even as I write this, dead bodies of the gharial are being dragged out from the river Chambal. Females, males and sub-adults - the death toll continues to rise day after day.
It's a mass slaughter and it's not due to poaching - it's an epidemic, which has already wiped out a massive chunk of the gharial population. Almost a hundred gharials have died at the National Chambal wildlife sanctuary alone, the only one in the country that extends into three states, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The MP government has been swift to react. But Rajasthan still refuses to acknowledge the problem (even though the Environment Minister at the Centre is from Rajasthan). The UP government, too, is foxed.
But other than sending the dead bodies for a routine post-mortem, everyone is clueless.
Renowned wildlife filmmakers Naresh and Rajesh Bedi, who have been filming gharials for the last decade, could not believe what they saw this December: a male gharial heaved and trembled as it raised its snout in the air and died a slow death. Gharials are not easy creatures to film and will jump into the water even if you are 30 feet away. This time around, the gharials just lay there as the filmmakers went right up to them. The female gharial was too sick to even jump into the water for cover. A few days later, the bodies continue to be dragged from the river.
It's a virtual mortuary on the banks of the Chambal: gharials succumbing to a disease that scientists are unable to identify, while a forest department looks on helplessly. Fewer than 200 breeding adults of gharials are found in the wild today and with the latest deaths, the numbers have shrunk rapidly.
Why should we care if a few hundred gharials have died? Well, because the gharial was once a symbol of all that was right with Indian conservation. Having shrunk to very low populations in the 1980s, gharial numbers had revived solely because of an active captive breeding programme. Sand mining used to be one of the biggest problems affecting the habitat. Last year, this too was stopped following orders from the Supreme Court. Things were beginning to look up.
Until these sudden unexplained mass deaths.
What flummoxes wildlife managers is that none of the other species of the Chambal river ecosystem like the otter, the gharial's cousin, the Indian mugger (crocodile), and over a 100 species of migratory birds such as the pelican, which also feeds on the same waters as the gharial, have been affected. The post-mortem reports show a high content of heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and chrome in the stomachs of the dead gharials. But where did the lead come from? If you have ever visited the Chambal sanctuary, you may be forgiven for thinking that it's on the edge of the world. Because of the traditional fear of dacoits, hardly any industries have set up base here and human habitation is sparse. The river is sparkling clean with no industrial contamination.
So how did the lead get into the water? Could it be from the Yamuna, which meets the Chambal further downstream at Etawah in Uttar Pradesh? Could it have been some fish that the gharials had eaten? But then, why has no other wildlife in the Chambal been affected? These are questions which only wildlife disease specialists can answer. Provided, of course, that the wildlife specialists are called in. The nature of the disease is such that it will require international experts who have experience in containing wildlife diseases and epidemics.
And why is the gharial worth saving? There are many reasons apart from the obvious one: the need to save a species. But most important is this: because it is possible to save the gharial. It's a localised problem - unlike the more complex problems of poaching or habitat loss that have plagued other Indian wildlife species like the tiger.
Wildlife maybe a subject handled by state forest departments but the reality is that it takes central interest for states to recognise they have a crisis on their hands. It took the Prime Minister's intervention to recognise that the tiger was being poached to extinction. At this point, immediate steps need to be taken. Ask the World Conservation Union to step in. Monitor the area, bring in scientists from within and outside the country. Cordon off the area to ensure the disease does not spread. Set up a task-force consisting of the forest department of all three states, chaired by the Ministry of Environment and Forests at the Centre, which can monitor the disease till it has been identified.
In an Indian conservation scene plagued by habitat destruction and poaching, here is one species that can be saved. And if we don't act now, the gharial will be the first species in independent India to have gone extinct.
Only because we didn't care enough.

http://www.ibnlive.com/blogs/bahardu...ghariyals.html
Attached Images
File Type: gif 012208_croc1.gif (63.3 KB, 108 views)
 
Old 01-24-2008, 04:37 PM   #2
LadyOhh
How sad... I love Gharials.
 
Old 01-24-2008, 08:34 PM   #3
The BoidSmith
I hope it's not the avian flu that killed also 10,000 chickens, because if it is...
 
Old 01-25-2008, 01:05 AM   #4
Wolfy-hound
Wasn't there the same sort of massive die-off in Florida with alligators not that long ago?
Finding the articles and research to link up might be useful. I remember the tv show on it, but it didn't seem to be definitive.
 
Old 01-25-2008, 07:24 AM   #5
wcreptiles
Found this on the Florida Alligators

Found this on the Florida Alligators.

http://myfwc.com/gators/research/Rep...l%20report.pdf

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

April 24, 2000

CONTACT: Dwayne Carbonneau (352) 955-2230


LAKE GRIFFIN ALLIGATOR UPDATE

In the past several days the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has received several calls from residents of Lake Griffin reporting sick or dead alligators on or near their property, and asking that they be removed.

Since late1997, substantial numbers of large alligators have been dying of unknown causes on the lake located in Lake County near Leesburg. The number of dead alligators has been steadily increasing each year, with the peak die-off typically occurring in April and May.

While many of the affected alligators die in remote areas of the lake and are never seen by residents, others sometimes end up on the shorelines near homes located on the lake. When this occurs, residents who would like the dead alligators removed are asked to call the FWC at 1-800-342-9620 or 352-732-1225 and make arrangements to have them taken away. The toll-free number is normally used only for wildlife emergencies and violations, but for now calls to request the removal of sick and dead alligators on Lake Griffin only, will also be accepted on this line. All other informational calls should be directed to 352-732-1225.

Every two weeks, FWC biologists survey Lake Griffin to count the number of dead alligators and have recorded 244 since November, 1997. From January through March of this year, 68 dead alligators have been found which is more than twice the number found during the same period last year, and more than was found during all of 1998.

To help discover what is causing the deaths, a team of scientists from the University of Florida, the Florida Museum of Natural History, the U.S. Geological Survey, the St. Johns River Water Management District, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the FWC are cooperating in a joint investigation of the die-off.

Sick alligators have been captured and examined by wildlife veterinarians and experts from the University of Florida. The alligators are lethargic and uncoordinated, but otherwise in good physical condition. Tests have shown no consistent bacterial or viral diseases associated with the disorder, however, most of the alligators have a nervous system disease that includes a brain lesion, which experts believe is probably the cause of death.

The question remains, however, what is causing the brain lesions. Clinical tests and the type of lesions suggest that some sort of toxin is responsible. However, toxic metals that can cause such disorders, including mercury and lead, are insignificant in the Lake Griffin alligators which have been tested.

Preliminary checks for pesticides also indicate relatively low concentrations, but further tests are needed.

The problem may also stem from nutritional deficiencies. Changes in fish and other prey populations due to changes in the water quality may have affected the nutritional value of the alligators' food sources.

Currently, alligator tissues are being examined for a wide range of pesticides and several tests for nutritional disease will be performed over the next few months.

Blue-green algal blooms are also a possible source of toxins that could cause nervous system disorders. Alligator tissues are being examined for algal toxins, but little is known about the identification and toxicology of algal toxins, particularly for Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii, a relatively new blue-green algae that has become dominant in Lake Griffin since the mid-1990s. Investigations of the toxic effects of Cylindrospermopsis on alligators are being initiated.

The FWC will continue alligator surveys on Lake Griffin until the problem is resolved, and will continue to collect sick alligators to further document the disorder.

http://www.floridaconservation.org/f.../nrc-gall.html
 
Old 03-19-2008, 06:08 AM   #6
wcreptiles
Global encomiums to protect alligators in MP - Follow up to above

I think they are talking about the same problem although it's alligators in one article and gharials in the other; the Chambal Sanctuary is mentioned in both.
**************************************************

Global encomiums to protect alligators in MP
By Our Staff Reporter

Bhopal, Mar 18: World Conservation Union (IUCA) has praised the crisis management efforts undertaken in Madhya Pradesh to check deaths of alligators. The encomiums have been given in a letter to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh through which IUCA has also offered its co-operation in this connection. Meanwhile, death rate of alligators in Chambal has come down. So far in the month of March not a single alligator has died.

The letter has been sent by the head of alligator segment of World Conservation Union Dr Graham Web to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in the latter's capacity as in charge of Union Environment and Forest Ministry. Dr Graham, while praising alligator crisis management in Madhya Pradesh, has said it was due to efforts undertaken by Madhya Pradesh government that necessary co-operation could be extended at the international level for checking deaths of alligators.

A four-member team was sent to National Chambal Sanctuary which comprised alligator experts Dr FW Fitz Huchzermeyer, Onderstepoort, South Africa, Dr Paulo Marteli, Ocean Park, Hong Kong, Dr Samuel Martin, Law Freme Oxe, France and Dr Brian Stacy, University of Florida, USA. This team made an in-depth study from January 28, 2008 to February 12, 2008. The team said that the efforts undertaken at the state-level were effective. In his letter, Web has explicitly written that remarkable progress has been made in management of this crisis mainly due to the strategy adopted in India.

It may be mentioned that deaths of alligators had started since December 2007 in 35-kilometre area at the fag end of National Chambal Sanctuary. This area is jointly controlled by Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. For the first time deaths of alligators were reported on December 8, from the area managed by Uttar Pradesh and since December 9, 2007 alligators in Madhya Pradesh area also started dying. Swinging into action, the state government contacted national and international experts. During the tour of the sanctuary by Chief Conservator of Forests, Dr PB Gangopadhyaya on December 15, 2007, necessary information was collected and an appeal was issued to all the alligators experts.

Madhya Pradesh government sought Union government's intervention so that assistance by national and international experts could be availed to tackle this grave situation. On January 7, 2008 the Union Environment and Forest Ministry organised a national-level meeting where Chief Conservators of Forests, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, national alligator experts and non-government organisation World Nature Fund-India were invited. At the meeting an Alligator Crisis Management Team, headed by World Nature Fund-India, was constituted.

According to the team, alligators had died of visceral gout due to kidney failure. Main cause of kidney failure was toxic effluents released by industrial units in Yamuna river which killed fish. These fish (stock food of alligators) were eaten by alligators leading to their death.


http://www.centralchronicle.com/20080319/1903021.htm
 

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