Crocodilia (or Crocodylia) is an order of large reptiles that appeared 83.5 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous period (Campanian stage). They are the closest living relatives of birds, as the two groups are the only known survivors of the Archosauria. Members of the crocodilian total group, the clade Crurotarsi, appeared about 220 million years ago in the Triassic period, and exhibited a wide diversity of forms during the Mesozoic era. The order Crocodilia includes the true crocodiles (family Crocodylidae), the alligators and caimans (family Alligatoridae) and the gharials (family Gavialidae), as well as the Crocodylomorpha, which include prehistoric crocodile relatives and ancestors. Although the term ‘crocodiles’ is sometimes used to refer to all of these, a less ambiguous vernacular term for this group is ‘crocodilians’.
National Chambal Sanctuary, also called the National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary, is a 5,400 km2 (2,100 sq mi) tri-state protected area in northern India for the critically endangered gharial (small crocodiles), the red-crowned roof turtle and the endangered Ganges river dolphin. Located on the Chambal River near the tripoint of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, it was first declared in Madhya Pradesh in 1978 and now constitutes a long narrow eco-reserve co-administered by the three states. Within the sanctuary the pristine Chambal River cuts through mazes of ravines and hills with many sandy beaches. The sanctuary is protected under India’s Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The sanctuary is administered by the Department of Forest under the Project Officer with headquarters at Morena, Madhya Pradesh.
The Critically endangered Gharial crocodile and the Red-crowned roof turtle live here, and together with the endangered Ganges River Dolphin are the keystone species of the sanctuary. Other large threatened inhabitants of the sanctuary include Muggar crocodile, Smooth-coated Otter, Striped Hyaena and Indian Wolf. Chambal supports 8 of the 26 rare turtle species found in India, including Indian narrow-headed softshell turtle, Three-striped roof turtle and Crowned river turtle. Other reptiles who live here are: Indian flapshell turtle, Soft Shell turtle, Indian roofed turtle, Indian tent turtle and Monitor lizard.
There are many nature watching opportunities available for the visitors to the National Chambal Sanctuary. The best opportunities for sighting and photography of Gharial and Dolphins can be had by hiring a boat with experienced driver and guide, available at several points along the river. A boat excursion will also offer many good viewpoints for photography of water and shore birds and unique landscapes. Walking trails in the ravines and along the river offer opportunities for close observation of the wide variety of plants and animals in the Sanctuary. There are public vehicle entry points to Chambal Sanctuary at Pinahat, Nandagon Ghat, Sehson and Bharch. Boating and visiting arrangements can be made with the help of the Wildlife Conservator Office, at Kota.
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