Two rare members of the crocodile family are now on exhibit in The RainForest at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo - a pair of critically endangered gharials that were born at a conservation institution in their home range country of 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 of the new gharials are almost 5 years old and female. They came to the Zoo after a short stay at the San Diego Zoo. They were born at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust in Tamil Nabu, India. When fully grown, female gharials can measure up to 13 feet long and weigh more than 200 pounds. They can be seen in the same RainForest exhibit that held the Zoo's previous female gharial, which was sent to the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas to be a potential breeding partner for a male gharial on a recommendation from the Population Management Plan of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' Crocodilian Taxonomic Advisory Group.
Gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) are native to India, Nepal and Pakistan. They are classified as critically endangered in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Gharials are threatened by habitat destruction for mining and agriculture and through conflicts with humans engaged in illegal fishing and turtle poaching activities. Gharials are just as rare in zoos, being housed in only seven institutions across the country. 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, visit clevelandmetroparks.com/zoo or call (216) 661-6500.