Villagers caught a baby Indus dolphin from the Rahib Shah Minor water canal near Sakrand mistaking it for a fish, it emerged on Monday.
Taking notice of videos of the catch viral on social media, the Sindh wildlife department (SWD) has decided to a lodge a case against the villager, who captured the dolphin reportedly in a big stockpot.
"I did not know it was an Indus dolphin," said villager Mohamamd Ashraf Unar, who caught the baby dolphin.
The residents of Bako Unar village saw the mammal in the water and tried to capture it in a fishing net. "We believed it was a fish," Unar said. "We brought it to our village and kept it in our cooler. It was just a foot-long," he added.
After the video of the dolphin's capture went viral on social media, SWD officials reached the village and enquired about the whereabouts of the mammal.
"We left it in the river," the villager told the officials.
However, a team of the SWD claimed that they searched for the dolphin in water canals, but could not find it. The officials believe that the dolphin was mistreated and could not survive.
Elaborating on the incident, SWD Chief Conservator Javed Ahmed Mahar said that the mammal likely died after the villagers caught it. "It can hardly survive for 10 minutes without water," he added. "There is no other way but to register a case against the man who caught it."
A rare mammal
The Indus River dolphin is one of the world's rarest mammals and the second most endangered freshwater river dolphin. There are an estimated 1,419 Indus dolphins in the channel between Sukkur and Guddu barrages and the distance between Sakrand and Sukkur is about 214 kilometres. The deceased baby dolphin had covered over 500 kilometers, traveling from one water canal to another.
Unfortunately, not a single person, including officials of the irrigation department, noticed the presence of the dolphin.
"We were not informed about it before the incident," said Mahar, adding that this was the first such incident of the year.
A punishable crime
In a similar incident last October, a villager named Khadim Hussain caught an Indus dolphin from a water canal near Nawabshah and took it home after making videos that later went viral on social media.
The dolphin's body was recovered by SWD officials and a case was registered against Hussain.
After being proven guilty of the crime, Hussain was sentenced to a year in prison and fined Rs25,000 by an additional sessions judge in Shaheed Benazirabad.
According to the court verdict, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, the convict was released on probation due to his humble economic condition.
According to the Sindh Wildlife Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management Act 2020, the maximum fine for Hussain could have been a penalty of upto half a million rupees or a three-year jail sentence or both.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15h, 2021.