Dhritiman Mukherjee, a wildlife photographer from India, went the National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary last year in the hopes of catching a glimpse of a strange-looking crocodile.
The severely endangered gharial has a long, narrow snout that is ideal for collecting fish. This huge crocodile was formerly prevalent in South Asian rivers and sandbanks, but there are now just around 250 individuals surviving in the wild.
Fortunately, Mukherjee was able to find one — and not just any gharial, but a wealthy father.
“Generally, one male mates with eight or nine females, and the male is responsible for all of the females’ kids,” Mukherjee told The Dodo.
Mukherjee spent about a week observing the gharial father care for his children, which was no simple undertaking with hundreds of newborns to safeguard. The gharial’s snout is too tiny to contain all of its kids, unlike other crocodiles, which carefully carry their infants in their jaws for safety. To keep safe, their offspring must instead grab a ride on their father’s back.
If you’re a gharial father, there’s no time to rest.
“If someone got close to them, he became quite possessive and angry,” Mukherjee added. “The male always spends 24 hours with the newborns.” The infants will sometimes rest on their father’s back.”
Conservationists are hoping that Mukherjee’s images of the huge gharial family and dedicated father would lead to the reintroduction of this rare crocodile. However, with the possibility of losing their river habitats owing to damming and overfishing, the gharial requires all the assistance he can receive.