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The Gentle Giant (Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

By: Udayan Rao Pawar, Category: At The Museum, Date: 07 May 2014

The winner of the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year, 14-year-old Udayan Rao Pawar, shares the story of his captivating image.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year #7

Udayan Rao Pawar (India) © Udayan Rao Pawar (India) / Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013

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Few creatures are more hated than crocodiles.

Gharials, inspite of growing nearly as long as the fearsome Estuarine Crocodile, are gentle giants which mainly prey on fish and do not attack humans.

That these 'cold blooded' creatures are capable of tender parental care is what my "Mother's Little Headful" photograph tries to show.

I have been visiting Chambal since my childhood days and had long been fascinated about the complex social behaviour of Gharial, in which the chief female of the breeding group - which consists of male with a harem of several females - looks after all the hatchlings of that group (creche system).

It had been my long standing wish to capture this on camera, particularly with the hatchlings perched on top of the female's head, as this, I felt, would not only make a very interesting and captivating image but would also send out a powerful appeal for the conservation of this critically endangered species.

I missed out doing so earlier mainly because of the disturbed conditions prevailing there and, in 2011, because early rains had swept away the hatchlings. I was luckier in the summer of 2012 when I managed to get the image I was looking for, even though the area was a bit tense following the confiscation of tractor-trollies engaged in illegal sand mining by the forest department.

I reached the place late in the evening and finding the light conditions unfavourable, I spent the night out in the open some distance away from the river. When dawn broke I crept down and hid myself behind a rock and got this image.

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