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Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat

Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)


  • Small, isolated populations in northern Indian subcontinent in river drainages
    • Only found in small portions of India and Nepal; locally extinct in many areas
    • "Once found in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Myanmar but are now extinct from most of these areas" (Gharial Conservation Alliance)
      • A few gharials have been sighted in Bangladesh, but may have accidentally enter that location—no evidence of breeding
      • 2019: report of gharials breeding in Nepal (Nepali Times 2019)
  • The most important remaining populations occur in 3 tributaries of the Ganges River: Girwa and Chambal Rivers in India, and the Rapti-Narayani River in Nepal (Whitaker, 1987).


  • Riverine habitats with deep, clear, fast-moving water and steep, sandy banks.
  • Prefer still, deep pools, formed at sharp river bends.
  • Use sandy banks (at river's edge or mid-river) and rocky outcrops for basking.
  • Young up to a year old prefer to hide in thick vegetation, roots or branches in the water.

Gharial Distribution

Gharial distribution

Isolated populations of gharial live on the Indian subcontinent.

Adapted from according to IUCN fact sheet. Click here or on map for detailed distribution (IUCN). Also see current and historical maps from the Gharial Conservation Alliance.

At Home in Water

Gharial poised near log, seen underwater

Gharials are the most aquatic of all crocodilians.

Their movements on land are restricted to sliding on their bellies.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved. Note: This is a cropped image.

Page Citations

Maskey et al. (1995)
Singh (1991)
Whitaker & Basu (1982)

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