Gharials are members of the crocodile family and are on the critically endangered list. The pair were born at a conservation institution in India.
“Gharials are related to crocodiles and alligators,” said the Zoo’s General Curator Andi Kornak. “But they have a much more slender snout which is adapted for their fish-heavy diet in the wild, as opposed to crocodiles which often take large land animals as prey.”
Both gharials are female and are almost five years old and come to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo after a short stay at the San Diego Zoo. They were born at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust in Tamil Nabu, India. Fully grown, the pair can measure up to 13 feet long and weigh more than 200 pounds. They will be housed in the RainForest exhibit that previously held the Zoo’s female gharials which was sent to the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas as a potential breeding partner. This was on the recommendation of the Population Management Plan of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Crocodilian Taxonomic Advisory Group.
Gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) are native to India, Nepal and Pakistan and are classified as critically endangered in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This endangered classification is due to habitat destruction from mining and agriculture as well as conflicts with humans engaged with illegal fishing and turtle poaching. There are only seven institutions across the country that house these rare animals. The Zoo and the Cleveland Zoological Society work with the Gharial Conservation Alliance to support gharial conservation in the wild.
Northeast Ohio’s most-visited year-round attraction, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. From November 1 through March 31, 2014, admission is discounted to $8.25 per person, $5.25 for kids ages 2 to 11 and is free for children younger than 2 and Zoo members. Parking is free. Residents of Cuyahoga County and Hinckley Township enjoy free Zoo admission on Mondays. Located at 3900 Wildlife Way, the Zoo is easily accessible from Interstates 71, 90 and 480.
For more information, visitclevelandmetroparks.com/zoo or call (216) 661-6500.