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Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) Fact Sheet: Summary

Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)

Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) Fact Sheet

Gharial resting on log

Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia - reptiles

Order: Crocolidia - crocodilians

Family: Gavialidae - gharials, gavials

Genus: Gavialis

Species: Gavialis gangeticus

Body Weight
159-181 kg (350 - 400 lb), on average
Maximum: 680 kg (1,500 lb)

Body Length
Males: 4 - 4.5 m (13 - 15 ft ), up to 6 m (19.7 ft).
Females: 3.5 - 4 m (11.5 - 13 ft)

Tail Length
3 to 5 times as long as it is broad at the base.

Light tan or olive color with darker bands along back and tail.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Small areas of India and Nepal. Once found through the Indian subcontinent.

Rivers, deep riverine pools, sandy banks at a river's edge

IUCN Status
Critically Endangered (2017 assessment)

CITES Appendix
Appendix I

Population in Wild
Not recently reported. Perhaps 200-400 adults; hundreds of hatchlings bred in managed care breeding programs released but survival rates not yet investigated.

Excellent swimmers. Do not move well on land, unlike other crocodilians—can only slide on their bellies.

Activity Cycle
Spend most time sun basking, resting, and foraging.

Social Groups
Single adult male and several females.

Mainly fish; also, aquatic frogs. Occasionally other food items.

Adult gharials: humans
Egg predators: pigs, jackals, monitor lizards, and mongooses

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity
Females: 10 years of age
Males: 13 years of age

Incubation period
70 days

Clutch Size
40-80 eggs

Nesting period
March and April

Birth Weight
75-130 g (2.6 - 4.6 oz)

Typical Life Expectancy
Not reported

Feature Facts

  • The name "gharial" comes from a Hindi word for a clay pot with a long neck, similar to the shape of an adult male gharial's (bulbous) snout
  • The male's bulbous snout alters vocalizations, making a buzzing rather than the hissing sound typical of crocodilians; may be important in courtship and/or communicating over longer distances
  • Once considered a conservation success, but efforts have "back slid" since the 1990s; only about 200 mature individuals remaining (as of 2017)
  • One of the largest crocodilians; can be as long/heavy as a saltwater crocodile
  • The only crocodilian which is sexual dimorphic, meaning some characteristics differ between females and males
  • Bulbous knob on male's nose is made of cartilage
  • Adapted for an aquatic lifestyle; has difficulty moving on land
  • Hatchlings stay close to their mother for protection; male allowed nearby—sometimes carries hatchlings on his back
  • San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance received 10 gharial from India as a breeding loan in 2012

About This Fact Sheet

© 2008-2019 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Population information updated 2018. IUCN errata updated 2019.


How to cite: Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) Fact Sheet. c2008-2018. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. gharial
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 10)


Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

Tail for Swimming

Gharial tail

A gharial's vertically compressed tail helps it swim.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

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