In this amazing photograph, a father crocodile is swimming in a river in India, carrying something extraordinary on his back.
Your load? Baby crocodiles, dozens of them. Look closely. Can you count them all?
There are over 100 tiny tails and pointy, scaly snouts swarming over their daddy, literally covering their massive back as they swim through the river.
The river is located in the national sanctuary of Chambal in northern India. and the extraordinarily disgusting photograph was taken by photographer and conservationist Dhrіtіmаn Mukherjee, who reportedly spends 280 days a year in the countryside, and has seen some extraordinary sights across North India and beyond.
Mukherjee uses his wonderful talents as a photographer to further the cause of wildlife conservation. This extraordinary image of a crocodile father carrying his month-old children on his back highlights a critically endangered species known as the crocodile gharial: a freshwater crocodile native to northern India.
Many decades ago, there were about 20,000 specimens like this daddy living in the wild. Due to habitat loss, since the 1930s their numbers have been reduced to about 1,000 mature individuals today.
Gharial crocodiles live throughout South Asia. But two-thirds of their numbers are in the Uttar Pradesh sanctuary in northern India.
The incredible photograph taken by Mukherjee was submitted to London’s Natural History Museum in the prestigious Photographer of the Year competition in 2020 (which was held online due to lockdown). and it generated a lot of excitement, as it is indeed a rare and significant sight.
He took the photograph from a safe distance, wisely.
Mukherjee told the BBC: “This male had mated with seven or eight females, and you can see he was very involved.
“Normally, the gharial is a rather shy crocodile compared to saltwater and swamp crocodiles. But this one was very protective and if he got too close, he would charge me. could be very aggressive.”
This exotic crocodile differs from other crocodile species, such as the Nile and saltwater crocodiles found in Africa and Australia, respectively, in that the gharial has a narrow snout with a distinct bulge at the end.
According to Patrick Campbell, Senior Curator at London’s Natural History Museum, there is a purpose for this peculiar adaptation. “It is a structure that allows the amplification of vocal sounds”, he says.
and as you can see in the photo of Mukherjee, she handles her young in a peculiar way: piggyback style; Not all crocodile species transport their young in this way.
“Other crocodiles carry their young in their mouths, very carefully of course,” adds Campbell. “But for the gharial, the unusual morphology of the snout means this is not possible. therefore, the young have to hold on to their heads and come back for that close connection and protection.”
The name “gharial” comes from the Hindu word “ghar”, which is a kind of clay pot. This fascinating species is one of the largest crocodiles in existence today.
Its decline, beginning in the 1930s, was mainly due to damming and barges disrupting its river habitat, and sand mining and rock removal. damaging their nesting environment, according to the BBC. and there is the constant danger of becoming entangled in fishing gear.
However, both India and Pakistan have helped the species to recover through captive breeding programs. and the photograph taken by Mukherjee is a sign of hope for the future of the species: it shows countless young, each with the potential to grow, mature and mate, to produce countless more gharial crocodiles.
Mukherjee hopes her passion for photography will encourage that recovery by helping people develop an emotional connection to wildlife and conservation.