Iran’s southern Sistan-Baluchestan province is home to a rare species of crocodile named Gando.
A type of short-muzzled crocodile, Gando has been designated as a highly endangered species by the international community since its number is dramatically declining in the world.
However, the local residents’ respect for nature has saved this rare species from extinction and Iran appears to be its safest and best habitat.
The residents of Sistan-Baluchestan province have never hunted a Gando since they have settled in the region.
Gando exists wherever water exists. These two are correlated and the Baluch people believe that if one of them were to leave, the other will also follow. Therefore, Gando crocodiles could survive for generations after the generations in the rivers of the province, the Persian daily Hamshahri reported.
Gando Protected Zone :
The rivers of Sistan-Baluchetsan overflow when it rains and submerge the land. However, when the raining season ends, some rivers dry up and some change into narrow streams, which form the habitats of Gando.
Gando is also the name of the only protected zone in Iran, which is hosting these animals.
Spanning over 465,000 hectares, Gando Protected Zone extends along the borders of Iran and Pakistan. The area comprises mountains, plains, deserts and Hara Forests.
Gandos are slaughtered for their expensive skins. They are near extinction in the neighboring countries, in spite of the many environmental laws that ban the animal’s hunting.
“Overhunting and poaching have driven Gando toward extinction in Pakistan and India,” said Asghar Mobaraki, an Iranian environmentalist, adding that currently only a handful of the animals are living in these two countries.
Praising the Iranian Baluch people’s attitude toward nature, Mobaraki said Sistan-Baluchestan province is the best refuge for Gando in Iran and even in the world.
Known as Persian or marsh crocodiles, Gandos can crawl over a long distance because of their stronger back feet. These animals dig up tunnels to take refuge in during too hot or too cold days.
They grow up to 2-3 meters in length and their lifespan is between 20-30 years when living conditions are suitable.
Gandos lay eggs during May and their young ones hatch one month later.
Mobaraki, who has conducted many studies on the animals’ population, called for expansion of wildlife services in Iran to save this rare species.
“Statistics show that the population of the animal has declined over some period of time,” he said, noting that their number has currently increased after a short gap.
The environmentalist said the population of Gando in Sistan-Baluchestan province is estimated to be between 200-300.
Mobaraki said Ganado’s census is very difficult because the population of Gando is highly dispersed.
“One habitat may be kilometers away from the other,” he said, adding that while only two crocodiles may be living in one habitat, a group of them may be found in another one.
Mobaraki said the largest number of Gandos die in the first weeks of life, emphasizing on the need for increasing protection measures during this period.
Threatening Factors :
Mobaraki named flood and drought as the two main dangers threatening the life of these animals.
“Natural disasters such as floods or severe droughts will decline the number of animals, particularly if disasters strike during their hatching,” he said.
“Floodwaters wash up the eggs and the little Gandos are not able to protect themselves. Hence, many of them will be killed before reaching the productive age.”
On the other hand, a severe drought causes rivers to run dry. Therefore, Gandos leave their habitats in search of new ones and many lose their lives before finding one.
Birds, hunting the little Gando crocodiles, are among other threatening factors.
Mobaraki believes that transferring the little Gandos to protected zones can help increase their numbers.
“Baby Gando s, which cannot protect themselves against flood or drought, must be kept in captivity for having a better chance of growing safely,” he said, adding that they can be released into nature after they grow up. Mobaraki named road accident as the other factor threatening Gando s.
“To escape the severe heat during a drought, the young Gandos leave their habitats to find a more suitable place,” he said, adding that many of them are killed in road accidents on their way.
Educating Local Residents
As said above, the high respect for nature appears to be an important element in the animal’s survival in Iran.
“Local residents have shown the highest level of support for the environment,” Mobaraki said