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Crocodile Dad Carries Around Hundreds Of Babies To Keep Them Safe

The Dodo logo The Dodo 6/18/2021 Lily Feinn

a large body of water

Last year, wildlife photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee visited the National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary in India hoping to catch a glimpse of a unique-looking crocodile. 

The gharial has a long, thin snout perfect for catching fish and is critically endangered. This large crocodile used to be common in rivers and sandbanks across South Asia, but now there are believed to be fewer than 250 adults left in the wild. map © Dhritiman Mukherjee

Luckily, Mukherjee was able to spot one — and not just any gharial, but a very successful dad.

Generally, one male mates with eight or nine females and so the male alone guards the babies of all females he mates with,” Mukherjee told The Dodo.

a flock of seagulls are swimming in a body of water © Dhritiman Mukherjee

Mukherjee spent nearly a week watching the gharial dad care for his offspring — and with hundreds of babies to protect, it was no easy task. Unlike other crocodiles, who carefully carry their offspring in their mouths for protection, the gharial’s snout is too small to accommodate all their babies. Instead, their babies have to catch a ride on their dad's back to stay safe.  


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And there’s no time to relax if you’re a gharial dad.

an animal swimming in the water © Dhritiman Mukherjee

“I found he was super protective and aggressive if someone came close to them,” Mukherjee said. “The male always stays close to the babies for 24 hours. Sometimes the babies lay on their father’s back.” 

Mukherjee’s photos of the large gharial family and committed dad have given conservationists hope that this unusual crocodile may be making a comeback. But, with the threats of losing their river habitats due to damming and overfishing leading to lack of food, the gharial needs all the help he can get.  a bird swimming in water © Dhritiman Mukherjee

With the help of my images, I can connect a huge number of people emotionally and scientifically with the natural world,” Mukherjee said. “I realized [photography] can be a great tool to create awareness and consciousness — a great tool for conservation.”

And this hard-working crocodile dad is finally getting the attention he deserves.

To see more of Dhritiman Mukherjee's wildlife photography, you can follow him on Instagram.

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