How many gharials do you see?

by Times of India

Mukherjee’s photo was highly commended at this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. (Photo Cr…Read More

Kolkata-based wildlife photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee’s picture of a male

gharial

, a species of crocodile that is critically endangered, being swarmed by his babies has been highly commended at this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Taken at the

National Chambal Sanctuary

in June, the male in the photo is the father of the 150-odd baby crocodiles he had with 7-8 females.

The species, of which there are only 650 adults remaining, was chosen by Mukherjee, who sees conservation as his primary goal, for precisely this reason — “photos build an emotional connection which triggers empathy”.

“People love to publish photos of tigers and lions because they are predators, but just like a parent, we look at the child that needs to be given special attention,” he says. He says loss of habitat, aided by human activities such as fishing, poaching and sand-mining, have caused the species indigenous to the Indian subcontinent to deplete in number. “They breed on the bank of a river, so if the bank is used and abused by people, there will be disturbance.”

These photos were taken at the National Chambal Sancturary in June. (Photo Credit: Dhritiman Mukherjee)

Describing the process of getting the shot, Mukherjee says he had spent some days observing the animals, with the help of the

Uttar Pradesh forest department

. “They’re a fish-eating crocodile that are ordinarily very much afraid of people. But you see a change in behaviour during breeding season,” he says. “Because I was around, the mother disappeared and the father became a bit bold and aggressive. I made it comfortable by maintaining a distance and because I was in no hurry to get the picture.”

He also managed to get some underwater shots of the creature. Mukherjee says he’s done lots of

underwater photography

before, including diving with crocodiles in Mexico. “I have done underwater shoots with so-called dangerous creatures. We only call them dangerous to make ourselves feel bold. How else do you become like

Bear Grylls

,” he asks, jokingly. “After all, nothing is more dangerous than human beings.”

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