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Supplementation of wild populations of the Critically Endangered Gharial Gavailis gangeticus with individuals reared in captivity is a widely used conservation management tool in Nepal and India, although its efficacy is uncertain. Measuring post-release growth in Gharial can provide valuable information on acclimation of captive-reared Gharial to the wild and provide growth rates to inform population recovery models. We studied post-release growth of Gharial reared in the Gharial Conservation Breeding Centre, Nepal, following their release into the Chitwan National Park. We used recapture data from known individuals to determine growth and change of mass for 26 Gharial recaptured 0.5–10 years after release. We found that Gharial recaptured two or more years post-release had increased in mass and length despite being over six years old at release, however there was a triangular relationship between time since release and growth: some Gharial had grown very slowly, whilst others had grown much faster. All Gharial recaptured less than two years since release had lost mass and had negligible growth in total length. This data show that there is considerable variation in post-release growth rates, which will lead to some individuals being very old before they reach a potentially mature size class, with unknown implications for reproduction. This variation is important for predicting or modelling recovery in populations where the release of Gharial from captivity is a management tool. Our results also suggest the two years after release are an acclimation phase—when Gharial lose mass and do not grow—which should be considered by release strategies in order to give Gharial the best chance of survival after release.
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