Story of rescue and release of Indian Pangolin found in Karachi. Out of eight species of the pangolin that exist in the world, only one – Indian pangolin – is found in Pakistan and there is an urgent need for creating awareness among the public so people don’t kill the animal
By Asif Ali Sandeelo
I go to bed late at night usually. What I do is to read an article or go through an eye-catching and inspirational book. But, still when I do not find something interesting, begin to tune on TV channels. I believe that newspapers, books and media are good source of information and keep one abreast of latest developments in the world. Above all, social media has made human interaction easy and information accessible in far-reaching areas. In the current era, one can get in touch with his family and friends in any corner of the world in just a few moments. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. It could be rightly called the power of media in general and social media in particular. Relating to this, there is a story that I want to share with my colleagues and other readers.
It was around 12:00 am in the midnight of 18 December 2015. As I turned on TV, there was breaking news on Samma TV which said ‘Police in action’. I took a deep sigh and thought for a moment that it would be certainly arrest or encounter killing of some ‘most wanted’ or a target killer in Karachi. It again came to my mind that this would eventually help in restoring peace in the city. One could vividly see on TV screen a large mob of people who had arrived to the location to know what had happened. But, after a few seconds, it appeared that animal named Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) found in bushes near Islamia College was taken into custody by Jamshed town police, Karachi.
The rolled up animal seemed fearful in presence of the people. It might have felt a great danger to its survival so it had taken up that shape. As the mob dispersed, police shifted the animal to the station and kept it there till morning. Later on the second day, the animal was handed over to Karachi Zoo for its upkeep and care. As the animal feeds on only ants and other insects, therefore, it was very difficult for the Zoo management to keep it for long time.
Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) being the sole custodian of wild animals in the province, took notice of the issue and received it from Zoo authorities. In order to release the animal into its habitat i.e. Khirthar National Park, the SWD contacted WWF-Pakistan. I, being the media person of WWF-Pakistan, was assigned to participate in the release operation of the animal. I had a great desire to get a glimpse of the animal as I had never seen it before. We left for the Khirthar National Park, located at around 45 kilometres from Karachi and joined SWD official on the way. As we reached there, wildlife officials informed that it was the Khar Centre of the Park where pangolin would be released as a large population of the animal already existed there. There was darkness in the area as sun had already set before we arrived. There was a dead silence except whispers of the wind and sounds of some remote wild animals. Local wildlife officials guided us and we reached the point where pangolin was to be released. We took pangolin out from the bag and placed it on the land. It had rolled itself up firmly. We asked all the participants to keep silent and turn off the lights. After a while, pangolin started to unroll and crawl forward. It also made some huffing sounds while straightening itself. We turned on search lights when it had travelled a few meters. We all waved our hands and bid him farewell as the animal disappeared into the wild.
Only eight species of the pangolin exist in the world particularly in Asia and Africa and the only one species that is Indian pangolin is found in Pakistan. It is reported in various parts of the country including hilly and sandy areas of Sindh, Balochistan, KPK and Punjab. According to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, all species of pangolin are endangered and require immediate conservation efforts.
Pangolin, a scaly anteater, is hunted for its scales, which are sold for illegal trade and export from Pakistan at lucrative rates. Studies indicate that poaching, illegal hunting and trafficking of the animal to a few countries including China and Vietnam has drastically reduced its population in Pakistan.
There is an urgent need for creating awareness among the general population, especially students. As people kill this innocent and harmless animal mercilessly out of fear. There should be strict penalty for culprits involved in illegal trade of pangolins and other endangered species in Pakistan.
Photos provided by author.