Amritsar, May 28
The presence of gharials in Pakistan’s Punjab region after a gap of three decades has been confirmed by the Pakistan chapter of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Some experts, however, believe that these rare reptiles might have drifted to the other side of the Radcliffe Line from Harike wetland.
Moved via Sutlej
It may have moved all the way from the Harike wetland through the Sutlej. Bilal Mustafa, Researcher
We require visual evidence. As we marked every reptile under our Harike rearing project on its tail, they can be identified. We have sent videos to the WWF, Pakistan, to certify it. Gitanjali Kanwar, Sr Coordinator, WWF-India
A team of the WWF, Pakistan, had been on its toes after a video of a long-snouted gharial (gavialis gangeticus) spotted by Pakistani fishermen on May 14 went viral.
The survey of the area has confirmed ‘the presence of gharials in the region, including the exciting observation of juvenile individuals after a presumed absence of three decades’, reads the report.
Bilal Mustafa, a researcher on historical distribution of animals from the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at the University of Oxford, who posted the video of the gharial, said, “It may have moved all the way from the Harike wetland (around 50 km ahead of the India-Pakistan border) through the Sutlej.”
He said the gharials were mentioned to be extinct in most of the Pakistan’s rivers in 1978.
The Harike wetland is where the Beas and the Sutlej converge. Between 2017 and 2021, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature-India (WWF) in collaboration with the Punjab Forest and Wildlife Preservation Department, had reintroduced and bred around 94 of these critically endangered species in different phases. Nonetheless, the exact location of its re-emergence on the Pakistan side has yet to be confirmed.
Gitanjali Kanwar, senior coordinator, WWF-India, who has been actively participating in the revival of the gharial project, said there could be a few more who made their way out from Harike into the main channel of the Sutlej that flows into Pakistan.
“We require visual evidence. As we marked every reptile under our Harike rearing project on its tail, they can be identified. We have sent videos to the WWF, Pakistan, to certify it,” she said.
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