Dhritiman Mukherjee, an Indian wildlife and conservation photographer, dedicated the past 20 years of his life to the documentation and protection of animals.
Spending over 280 days a year in the field, he has come across several incredible moments. One of his most recent encounters was with an endangered crocodile carrying its babies through the water.
Mukherjee's photograph of the careful father crocodile shows a male gharial giving a ride to more than 100 of his babies. The image got social media awing, for sure. But it was also recently named on the highly commended list of the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year, a contest run by London's Natural History Museum.
Capturing this incredible moment of father and babies is made all the more intriguing considering that the gharial is a critically endangered species.
Gharials are part of the Crocodilia family, a fish-eating species. These species are also one of the most enormous living crocodiles that evolved from the northern Indian subcontinent. The gharial's population has seen a dramatic decline since the 1930s. Eventually, in the 1980s, captive breeding programs were put in place in India and Pakistan. biggest
But, unfortunately, the gharial is still struggling due to habitat loss and depletion of resources. Which makes Mukherjee's photograph so heartwarming.
In his photo, we see a father giving the ultimate piggyback ride to his month-old children. He's certainly doing his part to help out the population, which has dipped from 20,000 across southern Asia to just under 1,000 in a small concentrated area.
"This male had mated with seven or eight females, and you can see that it was very much involved. Normally the gharial is quite a shy crocodile compared with the saltwater and marsh crocs. But this one was very protective and, if I got too close, it would charge me. It could be very aggressive."
Even though it's not unusual for crocodiles to carry their young, the gharial goes about things is a bit differently. Crocodiles will usually use their mouths to transport their children. However, according to Patrick Campbell, the senior curator of reptiles at the Natural History Museum, the shape of the gharial's snout makes that impossible. Which means a father has to find new ways to help carry his babies.
This gharial crocodile taking care of his children is a beautiful way to see his fight for his species survival... Even in less than ideal conditions.