A juvenile blind Indus dolphin, stranded amid plastic trash in one of Sukkur Barrage’s canal, Mirwah, located in Khairpur’s Faiz Ganj taluka, was reported dead on Sunday.
This is the second death of the rare species, colloquially called Bulhan, reported this year in Sindh, according to Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) Sukkur Deputy Conservator Adnan Khan.
The carcass was recovered by local villagers, who believed that the mammal was still alive at the time.
Confirming this, Khan told The Express Tribune, “The villagers did not kill the dolphin, but tried to rescue it.”
Khan said the dead dolphin was one of three dolphins that dwelled in Mirwah canal, adding that the villagers had rushed to its rescue after they saw plastic entangled around its beak.
“Unfortunately, the dolphin died before they could release her from the plastic wrapped around her beak,” he regretted.
The deceased dolphin, around nine months old, was taken to Sukkur for a postmortem.
While wildlife experts were yet to ascertain the time and cause behind the mammal’s death till the filing of this report, SWD Chief Conservator Javed Ahmed Mahar reckoned that the plastic items entangled around the dolphin’s beak was what likely led to its death.
Following the incident, SWD officials were informed of the dolphins’ presence in the canal, to which the mammals had swum from their main habitat situated between Sukkur and Guddu Barrages.
According to Mahar, the three dolphins were likely to have travelled 80 kilometres to reach the Mirwah canal.
“In most cases, people living around Sukkur Barrage inform wildlife teams of mammals present in the canal. They also have knowledge of rescuing the animals and assist wildlife teams during rescue operations,” explained Khan.
A survey conducted in 2019 concluded that the total population of dolphins in the canal between Guddu and Sukkur Barrages was 1,419 at the time.
One of them was reported dead on October 30, 2020, after a villager mishandled it while transporting it to his village. Accused of killing the dolphin, he is now imprisoned and facing a court trial.
“This makes the incident in Faiz Ganj taluka the second reported occurrence of a dolphin’s death,” said Khan, adding that the SWD had also received information of another dolphin stranded in Khairpur.
But, rescuing these stranded dolphins is not an easy task, he said, adding that his department intended to rescue all stranded dolphins between January 6 and January 25, when the Sukkur Barrage would remain closed.
According to Mahar, an SWD team has been trying to locate the other two dolphins sighted in the Mirwah canal. “But foggy weather is one of the main hurdles during a search and rescue operation,” he said.
And while he, too, confirmed that the incident in Faiz Ganj taluka was the second reported occurrence of a dolphin’s death in the province, Khan appealed to people to not throw plastic items in waterways.
“These plastic items are killing all living beings,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2020.
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