Are there sharks in the Ganges River? For the people of India, the Ganges River is more than just a body of water – it is a symbol of life, a sacred site central to their cultural and religious identity. It is a place of pilgrimage where millions of devotees come to bathe, pray, and seek spiritual purification.
But for all its beauty and significance, the Ganges River also has a dark side, a place where danger and mystery abound, as beneath the tranquil surface of the river, danger lurks in the form of sharks – apex predators that have adapted to life in freshwater environments.
The Ganges River is home to two shark species, including the elusive Ganges River shark and the formidable Bull Shark. While shark attacks in freshwater environments are relatively rare, they occur in the Ganges River, adding an extra layer of mystery and fascination to this vital river.
Yes, you read that right – sharks. While shark attacks in rivers are relatively rare in other parts of the world, India (especially in the Ganges) has seen its fair share of incidents. From fatal attacks to close calls, I’ve prepared an extensive article with the stories of human encounters with sharks in the Ganges River that are as thrilling as they are chilling.
If you’re ready to dive into the unknown and explore the secrets of the Ganges River, then keep reading.
Are There Sharks In The Ganga River? (Ganges River Sharks)
As I delved deeper into my research on the Ganges River, I was surprised to discover that at least two confirmed species of sharks have adapted to freshwater environments and can be found in the river (but this number can be higher). Despite facing unique challenges such as lower salinity and oxygen levels, these sharks have evolved to navigate the shallow, fast-moving waters of the Ganges River and hunt for prey.
In the following list, you can find the confirmed species of shark found in the Ganges River:
Ganges River Shark (Glyphis gangeticus)
The Ganges River Shark is an elusive and critically endangered species endemic to the Ganges River. Growing up to two meters long, this non-aggressive shark feeds on small fish and crustaceans. Despite being harmless to humans, the species is threatened by pollution, habitat loss, and overfishing. It’s heartbreaking to know that the estimated population of these species is less than 1,000 individuals, so conservation efforts are crucial to protect this unique and rare shark species.
Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas)
Bull Sharks have a unique ability to tolerate a wide range of salinities. This allows them to venture into freshwater environments such as rivers, lakes, and even the Ganges River in search of prey, leading to documented attacks on humans. According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), Bull Sharks are responsible for many unprovoked attacks on humans worldwide, ranking them among the top three most feared shark species along with the Great White Shark and the Tiger Shark.
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Sharks In Ganges River (Species Guide)
These two species have adapted to life in freshwater environments uniquely. However, they face several challenges in the Ganges River. Human activities such as pollution, habitat destruction, and overfishing can all impact the survival of these apex predators. Additionally, freshwater sharks’ behavior is still poorly understood, making it challenging to develop effective conservation strategies. Here I’ve prepared a more visual way to compare the two species:
|Ganges River Shark||Up to 2 meters|
|Freshwater rivers||Small fish, crustaceans||Critically Endangered|
|Bull Shark||Up to 3.3 meters|
|Estuaries, freshwater rivers and lakes||Fish, turtles, birds, mammals||Near Threatened|
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Shark Attacks In Ganges River (Complete List)
In other parts of the world, shark incidents in rivers are rare and scarce. In India, however, the attacks come with “terrifying regularity,” as mentioned by National Geographic. The Ganges River is only one of the Indian rivers where attacks are becoming more common, as other essential water branches as the Hooghly River, are shark “infested” as well.
The Global Shark Attack File (GSAF) and International Shark Attack File (ISAF) are great data sources (my personal favorites, actually) when it comes to shark attacks. However, these sources may not be completely accurate regarding river shark attacks in India. This is because the local population living near the rivers in India is primarily poor and doesn’t have access to the internet, which means that many shark attacks go unreported.
In GSAF, I was able to find 13 reports. But the number can be way higher than that, as mentioned before.
|Date||Location||Activity||Incident Type||Fatal (Yes or No)|
|1959-07 to 1959-09||Orissa||Fishing, standing in water next to purse net||Unprovoked||Y|
|1952-05||Unknown||Fishing, standing in water next to purse net||Unprovoked||N|
|1880-05-14||West Bengal||Bathing in river||Unprovoked||N|
|1870-06-01||West Bengal||Bathing / standing||Unprovoked||N|
|1595||Kerala||Ship lay at anchor & man was working on its rudder||Unprovoked||UNKNOWN|
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Are there bull sharks in the Ganges River? Bull sharks have been confirmed to be present in the Ganges and other Indian rivers. Bull sharks can live in fresh and salt water. According to the Global Shark Attack File (GSAF), there have been reports of Bull shark attacks in the Ganges River.
Does Ganga river have shark? The Ganges River is home to at least two species of sharks, being them the Bull shark (that can live in fresh and salt water) and the Ganges River Shark, endemic to the area. Despite rare, both shark species have being already involved in shark attacks in rivers in India.
How many Ganges sharks are left? The Ganges shark is critically endangered, and the estimated population of these species is less than 1,000. Efforts are being made to protect and conserve the species, including establishing protected areas and fishing practices regulations.