The Gharial crocodile is one of India's rarest and most sought-after wildlife species. These ancient creatures, with their long, thin snouts, can reach up to 12 feet long but generally weigh around 2 thousand pounds when mature!
The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies this animal as critically endangered because its population has declined since before World War II. Today there may be fewer than 600 left on Earth due mainly to habitat loss caused by farming practices like irrigation schemes which result in saltwater intrusion into freshwater habitats where these animals live alongside other life forms.
Dhritiman Mukherjee is a wildlife photographer who has captured these rare scenes. His photo of an endangered male Gharial giving his 100 babies "a lift" could be considered for the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Contest run by London's Natural History Museum.
"This male had mated with seven or eight females, and you can see that it was very much involved," said Mukherjee. "Normally, the Gharial is quite a shy crocodile compared with the saltwater and marsh crocs. But this one was very protective, and if I got too close, it would charge me. It could be very aggressive."
Luckily, he stayed at a safe distance and captured this striking behavior. While it's not unusual for crocodiles to carry their young, how the Gharial goes about things is slightly different. Crocodiles will typically use their mouths to transport their children. However, according to Patrick Campbell, the senior curator of reptiles at the Natural History Museum, the shape of the Gharial's snout makes that impossible. So, they resort to other means, like letting them cling to their head and back to move about.
Father crocodiles taking care of his young are not seen very often, but this dad does that for his family's survival. What are other animal fathers known for their nurturing nature? Let us know in the comments!
Take a look at some other impressive photos taken by Mukherjee:
What do you think about these photos? Aren't they strange and beautiful at the same time? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!