KARACHI: Villagers shot and killed a blind dolphin in Johi, Dadu district, fearing it was a crocodile. According to local residents, the incident occurred when villagers witnessed a movement in the canal where their buffaloes were swimming. "We were in our field and suddenly saw buffaloes running out of the canal in panic. We saw something unusual moving in the water," Rahim Bozdar, a villager of Johi area, told the local media. "Most people thought it was a crocodile so they shot and killed it with a gun," he said.
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After the incident, people rushed to the scene and dragged the supposed crocodile out of the water. "We contacted the local administration in Dadu and Johi, but no one came there and the corpse of the dolphin was still there," said local journalist, Asif Jamali.
The blind dolphin is one of the endangered species found in Indus River. According to a recent survey, there are a total of 1,816 dolphins in the Indus River. The majority of them can be found between the Guddu and Sukkur Barrages. "The dolphin might have travelled from Indus River to the canal. The killing of a dolphin is a criminal act and a case must be registered against those who killed it," said World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) Senior Communications Manager Asif Sandeelo.
According to experts, such incidents occur frequently but no preventive measures have been taken to save the rare species. "With help from the wildlife department, we have started awareness and mobilisation campaigns in some areas where dolphins are found, but people are indifferent," said Sandeelo, adding that the law carries no strict punishment for this offence. Sandeelo said that the Sindh Wildlife Ordinance 1972 is riddled with many flaws and only gives meager punishments or imposes small penalties. "The revised law has been drafted and is pending in the assembly since 2010," he said.
In another incident, fishermen led by Ameer Badshah, the captain of a tuna fishing boat, safely managed to release a two-metre-long pantropical spotted dolphin which was entangled in their gillnet, in the Indus canyon about 176 kilometre southeast of Karachi, on Tuesday.
The pantropical spotted dolphin, locally known as Tushuk in Balochi and Gokin in Sindhi, is found in all temperate and tropical oceans around the world. It is considered to be very active and is prone to making large, splashy leaps from the sea. It is believed that coastal and offshore dolphins are prone to anthropogenic factors including commercial fishing, habitat degradation, vessel traffic and other coastal development activities.
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According to WWF-Pakistan Marine Fisheries Technical Advisor Muhammad Moazzam Khan, the population of pantropical spotted dolphins is believed to have declined in Pakistan. It is one of the common dolphins that get entangled in fishing nets in coastal and offshore waters. A few years ago, dolphin mortality in the gillnet fisheries was estimated to be about 12,000 annually. However, an awareness campaign among fishing communities resulted in a phenomenal decrease in the mortality of dolphins. It is estimated that now only around 30 to 40 dolphins die annually as a result of gillnet operations.
Once entangled, dolphins drown and die immediately. However, in a few cases, entangled dolphins have survived on-board fishing vessels. WWF-Pakistan has trained more than a 100 fishermen to safely release such dolphins. Badshah and his crew had cut the fishing net to disentangle the dolphin from the net hence releasing it safely.
WWF-Pakistan Sindh and Balochistan Regional Director Dr Babar Khan lauded the efforts of the fishermen in releasing the dolphin which indicate that fishermen are now well aware of the importance of such threatened species.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2018.