Man arrested after mishandled Indus dolphin dies

Videos show K dragging the baby dolphin out of a small waterway as villagers surround him


Our Correspondent November 01, 2020
A file photo Indus Dolphin. PHOTO: EXPRESS

SUKKUR:

A man who mishandled an Indus dolphin, leading to its death, on Friday was arrested with the help of the Nawabshah police on Saturday.

The incident was the first reported occurrence in the province where an endangered mammal, listed internationally as a threatened species, has been killed by a local resident.

The man, K*, was arrested on the request of Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) officials. Charged with killing the dolphin, he will be presented in court on Monday (tomorrow)

On Friday afternoon, villagers near a minor distributary of the Sukkur Barrage system's Rohri Canal found the baby dolphin stranded in the waterway.

Seemingly oblivious to the dolphin's significance, some of them jumped into the canal and caught it, rather than waiting for rescuers. Dozens of other residents arrived to see the mammal, filming the spectacle.

Video clips going viral on social media showed K dragging the dolphin, slung across his shoulders, out of the water, as the crowd applauded him.

"The villagers should have waited for the rescue team, but instead, K caught the dolphin and took it to his village," said SWD conservator Javed Ahmed Mahar.

Wildlife officials claimed the rescue team deployed at the Indus Dolphin Conservation Unit, Sukkur - about 180 kilometres from the site - arrived there just 10 minutes after K carried the dolphin away.

"They [the rescuers] contacted K on his phone but he did not share his location and ignored their instructions," claimed Mahar.

The body of the dolphin, which died soon after, was later recovered and the man arrested by the police.

Mahar said a criminal case was filed against K under Sections 9(1)(a) and 21 of the Sindh Wildlife Act, 2020.

According to the conservator, the dolphin's body was shifted to Sukkur for scientific study. He explained that Pakistan was working with Nanjing Normal University, China, on whole genome sequencing and gut analysis.

An SWD official said samples from the body would undergo a detailed postmortem analysis and would be an addition to the data already collected by the Punjab Wildlife Department.

Dismissing the idea that the villagers were unaware of the dolphin's importance, Mahar claimed over 70 per cent of Sindh's population knew about the Indus dolphin.

"The act was against the law. The provincial government will hold firm in pursuing the case so that the offender can receive the maximum punishment," he stated. According to the law, K may be sentenced to up to three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs0.5 million, if found guilty.

Wildlife conservationists, meanwhile, were vocal on social media as they called for the SWD to thoroughly probe the case. They further urged wildlife officials to create awareness among those residing near the dolphins' habitat.

The endangered species are found in a small stretch of the River Indus, near the Sukkur Barrage. Blind by nature, they often get stranded in shallow waterways branching off from the river.

According to the SWD, as many as 18 rescue operations - all of them successful - have been carried out in the area over the last year.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2020.

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