Dolphins remain stranded at Gharo Creek

Rescue operation under way; officials fear villagers will harm mammals

The two Indo-pacific humpback dolphins have reportedly been in the creek for three weeks. PHOTO COURTESY: JAHANGIR MARRI

KARACHI: Two Indo-pacific humpback dolphins continue to be stranded in Gharo Creek as they cannot escape due to possible barriers near the Harjina Bridge.

The two dolphins, common in the coastal belt, have been seen in the creek near Gharo city by local fishermen. Thinking they could make money by selling the mammals, villagers tried to catch them and hit one of the dolphins with sticks, locals informed The Express Tribune.

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A two-member team of the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF) started a rescue operation in the creek on Monday morning but failed to move the animals to deeper waters.

"The operation to move such animals physically is very risky. It can harm them," said Moazzam Khan, technical adviser at WWF and head of the Pakistan Whale and Dolphin Society.

Khan confirmed that one of the dolphins has been injured. "But it is a minor injury," he said, adding that it is normal for these dolphins to be stranded in creeks due to the low tides.

"There is no awareness among the people. They believe these dolphins will either harm them [so they try to hurt them] or they think of selling them," Khan said.

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Asif Sandilo, senior communications officer at WWF, believed the move back to deeper waters was not possible due to faulty construction at the bridge.

According to villagers, the dolphins have been visible in the creek for the last 20 days or so. "People hit the fish [dolphin] with sticks in fear of being harmed," local resident Abdul Ghani said. He added that thousands of people from nearby villages and Gharo city gathered around the water. "No one was sure what kind of fish the local villagers had caught."

WWF officials said it was not so easy to move dolphins from the location where they are stuck.

"We have to make a plan," Khan said, adding that all stakeholders including the Thatta district administration is on board.

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"Our team tried but it wasn't possible for us to rescue these animals," Sandilo said. Quoting a local villager, he said there were three dolphins. "I think one has moved to the deeper sea," he added. Marine experts have urged authorities to move the dolphins back to the sea as there is a fear that locals will try to catch them and end up hurting the animals.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2016.


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