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Ahead of Magh Mela in UP, gharial spotted in township

 
Prayagraj (Uttar Pradesh), Jan 7 (IANS) With exactly a week left for the annual Magh mela to begin, a gharial spotted at the Mela township has created considerable panic in the area.

A group of workers engaged for Magh Mela construction projects spotted a two-feet-long baby gharial near a pontoon bridge area on the banks of the river Ganga.

A team of forest department rushed to the spot and rescued the reptile. The team took it to their office in Minto Park.

Officials of the forest department said that river Ganga is a natural habitat of gharial.

Chief forest officer (CFO) Ramesh Chandra said that a team of forest department has rescued a baby gharial whose length is about two feet, near the Triveni Marg pontoon bridge on the bank of the Ganga.

"Sadly, it died after being rescued. Its autopsy will be conducted on Friday to know the exact reason of its death," he added.

The CFO further added that river Ganga is a natural habitat of gharials and dolphins and they sometimes come near human populated areas.

The incident shocked the workers and visitors alike at a time when hectic preparations were underway to complete the Magh Mela work on time.

Earlier, there were three to four incidents when either crocodiles or gharials were spotted in villages under Karchana and Meja tehsils. The forest department teams rescued them and released them into the Ganga.

Forest officials said that gharials eat fishes and sometimes also get trapped in nets of fishermen during fishing in deep waters.

Officials also claimed that the reptile generally avoids populated areas.

Ramraj Gupta, who runs a sweet shop at the Hanuman temple near Sangam, said, "If a baby gharial has been found, bigger gharials are also likely to be near the spot. Officials should scout the entire area before lakhs of pilgrims arrive for the Magh mela next week."

Gupta takes a dip in the Ganga every day and has been following the practice since the past 40 years.

"However, I will not take a holy dip for the next few days because my family is apprehensive," he added.

Gharials survive only in the waters of India and Nepal. The surviving population can be found within the tributaries of the Ganges river system -- Girwa (Uttar Pradesh), Son (Madhya Pradesh), Ramganga (Uttarakhand), Gandak (Bihar), Chambal (Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan) and Mahanadi (Orissa).

--IANS
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