Udayan Rao Pawar / Wildlife Photographer of the Year 20133 of 10
Mother’s Little Headful
by Udayan Rao Pawar, India
Winner: 11-14 Years
One night, Udayan camped near a nesting colony of gharials on the banks of the Chambal River — two groups of them, each with more than 100 hatchlings. Before daybreak, he crept down and hid behind rocks beside the babies. "I could hear them making little grunting sounds," says Udayan. "Very soon a large female surfaced near the shore, checking on her charges. Some of the hatchlings swam to her and climbed onto her head. Perhaps it made them feel safe." It turned out that she was the chief female of the group, looking after all the hatchlings. Though he saw a few more females and a male, they never came close. Gharials were once found in rivers all over the Indian subcontinent. Today, just 200 or so breeding adults remain in just 2 percent of the former range. "The Chambal River is the gharials' last stronghold," says Udayan, "but is threatened by illegal sand-mining and fishing."
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