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Marsh Crocodiles (Mugger Crocodiles) in Sulaiman Range
Sulaiman Range, mountain mass in central Pakistan, extending southward about 280 miles (450 km) from the Gumal Pass to just north of Jacobabad, separating Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab from Balochistan. Its heights gradually decrease toward the south, with summits averaging 6,000–7,000 feet (1,800–2,100 metres), the highest being the twin peaks (30 miles [48 km] from the Gumal Pass) called Takht-i-Sulaiman, or Solomon’s Throne, which legend connects with Solomon’s visit to Hindustan; the higher of the peaks, at 18,481 feet (5,633 metres), is the site of a ziyārat (shrine) visited annually by many pilgrims.
The range’s eastern face dips steeply to the Indus River, but on the west the range declines more gradually. Juniper and edible pines abound in the north and olives in the centre, but vegetation is scarce in the south. The Ghat, Zao, Chuhar Khel Dhana, and Sakhi Sarwar are the principal passes in the north. In the south, west of Dera Ghazi Khan, lies the hill station of Fort Munro (6,303 feet [1,921 metres]).
Marsh Crocodiles (Mugger Crocodiles)
The marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) also known as Mugger Crocodiles is a carnivore Reptile of fresh waters found in lakes, rivers, and marshes. Marsh Crocodiles prefer slow-moving, shallower bodies of water rather than fast-flowing, deep areas. They are also known to thrive in man-made reservoirs and irrigated canals. Although it prefers freshwater but has some tolerance to saltwater as well.
In Seraiki language, Baghoon means crocodile and Dhand means lake but local Balochi spealcing tribal people used to call crocodile Gowindo, whose etymology reportedly leads to ancient Sanskrit words of Ghantika and Ghondo. According to a Balochi dictionary, Gowindo means a crocodile or an alligator.
Distribution of Marsh Crocodile
Marsh crocodiles are mainly found in South Asian countries such as Iran, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Status of Marsh Crocodile
The status of Marsh Crocodile according to the IUCN Red List is VULNERABLE.
Status of Marsh Crocodile in Pakistan
In Pakistan, the Marsh Crocodile is mainly found in Sindh and Balochistan Province.
Marsh Crocodiles (Mugger Crocodiles) in Sulaiman Range
The Sulaiman Range between the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces is home to many rare species but many of the myths emanating from the region are still waiting to be unravelled since long.
One of them is the presence of the mugger crocodiles, also known as marsh crocodiles, in the eyewitnesses` accounts of the locals around the Mat Khund. Historically, the species was found in Sindh and Balochistan in small lakes formed by perennial water flowing from the bed of the seasonal Kaha river in Tuman Gorchani of district Rajanpur.
Sherbaz Chaang Gorchani, a resident of Tuman Gorchani and a Border Military Police personnel, told the scribe i.e. DAWN that four years back one mugger crocodile was killed near Baghoonwali Dhand (lake) located in the bed of Kaha river near Mat Khund in Tuman Gorchani. He also shared a picture of the killed crocodile.
To verify the reports, the scribe visited the area with a guide provided by, former deputy speaker of Punjab Assembly Sher Ali Gorchani, a leader in the area, along with local historians, Malik Saleem Bhutta and Ehsan Yaqoob Khosa, to find evidence of the killing of the crocodile in Tuman Gorchani, miles away from mighty the river Indus, the natural habitat of marsh crocodiles.
There are two prominent lakes in the bed of hill torrent Kaha or river Kaha, Angraizwali Dhand and Baghoonwall Dhand near Mat Khund.
In Tuman Gorchani, we met Naseer Macchi, a resident of village Loundi Saidawn, who was a witness to the killing of the mugger crocodile near Baghoonwali Dhand. He claimed the crocodile had an injury in one of its webbed feet. It was lying senseless outside the Baghoonwall Dhand and the locals killed it by stoning.
Another eyewitness mugger crocodile was elderly Haider Thalwani, a resident of Mat Khund, who claimed that Gowindos (crocodiles) were present in Baghoonwali Dhand. He said the Gowindos used to come out of the Dhand during the daylight in the winter and night of summers and there were several Gowindos in the Dhand. He said Gowindos are fish, found in abundance there.
It is pertinent to mention that residents of village Loundi Saidawn and the rest of the area used to catch fish from these Dhands with nets.
How come March Crocodiles are present in the Mountains of Sulaiman Range?
The reports of the presence of mugger crocodiles in the mountains of Sulaiman Range have raised many questions, including the most pertinent one that how they reached the mountains. In the folklore, it is claimed that one wing of the mighty Indus was used to flow near the foothills of the Sulaiman Range in ancient times and during floods and rainy season, waters of the Kaha seasonal river and the Indus used to mix with each other, making it possible for mugger crocodiles, fish and turtles to remain in the Kaha river after the floods would recede.
According to Prof. Dr Aleem Ahmed Khan, some 5000 years ago River Indus overspilled some 80 km wide and wiped off the whole generation due to sudden flooding. It was the time when the Arabian Sea experienced series of volcanos. The water temp of the sea enhanced and heavy cloud systems moved to the north pouring cloud bursts resulting in flash floods everywhere in Suleman Ranges to the Himalayas. It was the time the Indus civilizations doomed to finish leaving places like Mooin jo dero later called Moinjodaro and Harappa. Where bricks made ruins tell their story while unbricked ruins washed out. Indus was teeming with Muggers hence may have found their way into the Suleman mountains.
Depiction of the crocodile on seals excavated from Harappa and Mohenjo Daro is evidence that they were found in abundance when the Indus Civilization thrived.
The stance of Organizations on the presence of Marsh Crocodile in Sulaiman Range
Wildlife Department Deputy Director Naveed Tariq was not aware of the presence of mugger crocodile in the lake on the bed of Kaha river in the Sulaiman Range in Tuman Gorchani, Rajanpur.
Former member of WWF-Pakistan and zoologist Umer Waqas told Dawn that crocodiles were originally a resident of the Indus. He maintained that the presence of mugger crocodiles in lakes in the mountains in the bed of the historical Kaha river should be researched by the wildlife department and the WWF.
A report on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) of the UN says in one of the reports that no recent survey data is available on mugger crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris) in Pakistan. `This species was considered endangered or very rare in the early 1980s (Groombridge 1982). The most recent survey was conducted by the Zoological Survey of Pakistan in 1997.
Five hundred specimens were recorded at Makhi and Bagar Dhand of the Chotiiari reservoir. Plans for the winter survey during the 1999-2000 season are underway.
The Sindh Wildlife Department recorded one thousand specimens in 1999 in the Sanghar district. The species is now considered safe in Sindh. Crocodile recovery has been associated with a conservation project in the Deh Akro no. 2 Talul(a Nawabshah. The project began in 1983, and current estimates place the crocodile population at about 2000 (Ahmad 1990).
In Balochistan, the widespread killing of crocodiles has threatened the majority of the local populations. Many crocodiles were reported killed in the River Hingol during a period of low water in 1986-1987 (Khan 1989). Principal threats include killing for sale of the hide, killing by fishermen, as well as killing for the collection of specimens for laboratories and museums (Khan 1988).
However, the convention was silent about the presence of mugger crocodiles in the Sulaiman Range of Dera Ghazi Khan. The wildlife authorities should launch a survey in the region to probe the witnesses` reports of the sighting of the crocodiles.