Juvenile Marsh Crocodile rescued in Makhi Forest, Sanghar

Karachi: The activists of Makhi Development Organization (MDO) and a team of WWF- Pakistan rescued a juvenile march crocodile in Makhi Forest of district Sanghar on Friday.

The activists found a juvenile crocodile stranding in agriculture fields surrounding Makhi Forest in Sanghar district. The members of MDO and villagers, who saw this animal, said that dogs were barking at crocodile and it was growling at them. The animal was soon caught by the activists who then informed WWF- P office at Chotiari Wetlands Complex.

Knowing about this, the WWF- Pakistan team soon reached the spot and took the animal into its custody. The representatives of WWF – Pakistan inspected the animal and found no any injury. The animal was in a healthy condition. WWF – P team along with MDO members released it in protected crocodile habitat near Ghulam Hussain Legari village.

President of MDO, Khalid Ali Leghari said that animal might had floated into a small canal and was trying to make its way back.

Marsh Crocodile is commonly known as Mugger. Its biological name is Crocodylus palustris, locally known as “wagu”, is found in Iran, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan. In some countries such as Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, this animal has become extinct. In Pakistan, crocodiles are living in wild areas as well as in captivity. The animal’s maximum length is recorded up to 5 meters, however the average length is found at 3.9 meter (13ft). Male crocodile is generally larger than female. Marsh crocodile have life span of about more than 40 years. They live in groups and communicate with each other through special sounds. The animal can survive in variety of habitats, e.g. fresh and brackish lakes, rivers, marshes, reservoirs, irrigation canals and also adopts itself in captivity in man-made ponds. It can also survive even in coastal lagoons and estuaries. The largest wild habitats in Pakistan are Nara Wetland Complex and Chotiari Wetland Complex in Sindh and Hingol River in Baluchistan.

Marsh crocodile inhabits a greater portion of the Nara Canal and Nara desert. It is phenomenal how these amazing creatures migrate from the Nara Canal to the adjoining sand dunes in search of fresh water lakes which are surprisingly found in the complex desert system. These crocodiles are often observed in the lakes where they breed, such as Nagiopir Lake where around 12 juvenile crocodiles were recorded early this year in January. Wildlife organizations are in pursuit of declaring it a wildlife sanctuary along with Deh Akro which is thought to be the last resort of hope for these animals to survive.

According to Saeed-ul-Islam, Senior Natural Resource Management Officer, Indus for All Programme WWF – P at Chotiari site said that Makhi Forest and Chotiari Wetlands Complex (Chotiari Reservoir) are still one of the best hot spot for variety of wildlife species e.g. Hogdeer, Smooth Coated Otter, Marsh crocodile and migratory as well as local birds.

The rescued animal is included in CITES (Conservation on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora) Appendix I due to its skin trade all over the world. The animal is declared vulnerable in the IUCN Red List 2009. Population of the animal is gradually declining due to habitat fragmentation, increase of human influence within their habitat for fishing practices and for wildlife trade. In early 2008 a dead crocodile stripped of its skin was found in Karachi, which showcases the level of exploitation.

The marsh crocodile is hole-nesting species, which lays eggs during dry season in December and January. Female generally matures sexually at about the length of 1.5 – 2 meters. It lays approximately 25 to 30 eggs once a year or in some cases her nest is found with 48 eggs. Incubation period is about 55-75 days which starts in February. The temperature of the nest determines the sex of the juveniles. At 32.5? the all embryos will be male while between 28 and 31? the eggs will produce all females. Ratio of female animals is found greater than the males. At least 600 species are thought to be existing in Pakistan (Sindh and Balochistan) while approximately 150 are found in captivity (in Sindh and Punjab). The number of population is considered as vulnerable and is diminishing due to alteration, destruction and fragmentation of its habitats.