By Krishnendu Mukherjee
KOLKATA: Asiatic wild dog, also known as Indian wild dog or dhole and listed as endangered under the IUCN red list, has been sighted for the first time in the Jaldapara National Park in north Bengal recently.
Confirming the news, DFO of Jaldapara wildlife division Rajendra Jhakhar said that the sighting happened in the Kodalbasti area of the national park last week.
"There were four to five wild dogs in the pack and one of them was dragging a kill, a hog deer, into the bush when one of our forest guards managed to record the video on his phone camera placed near the site prior to the animal's arrival. They were sighted three months back in the area while crossing the road, but our forest guards couldn't manage to click the image then. It seems the same pack has settled in the area. And we hope they are breeding too," he said.
Chief wildlife warden Ujjwal Bhattacharya said that the presence of wild dogs has earlier been reported from Buxa, Mahananda and Neora valley. "It is the first photographic evidence of the species from this area and very encouraging news," he said, adding that Jaldapara is contiguous with Buxa and Mahananda and it is very much possible for the carnivores to move into this part of north Bengal.
According to IUCN data, fewer than 2,500 mature wild dogs remain in the wild and the declining population trend is expected to continue.
Main threats to the species include ongoing habitat loss, depletion of prey base, inter-specific competition, persecution and possibly disease transfer from domestic and feral dogs.
Dholes are found throughout much of India south of the river Ganges, and especially in the Central Indian highlands and the Western and Eastern Ghats of the southern states.
They are also found throughout northeast India, in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, and West Bengal. Experts said that the species' historical range probably included all or most of the Malaysian peninsula and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java, but reliable information is scarce.
Dholes living outside or on the edge of core protected areas are vulnerable to conflict with humans. During a radio-tracking study in 2000, in the buffer zone of Kanha Tiger Reserve in Central India, it was found that at least 16 out of 24 dholes in one pack died from a sudden poisoning.
State wildlife advisory board member Animesh Bose said that there were unconfirmed reports of presence of wild dogs in Chilapata three to four years back. "It seems this is the same pack and photographed probably for the first time," he said.
When in a pack, wild dogs can turn dangerous even for tigers. There have been recent reports from Central India's Bandhavgarh of pack of dholes stealing kill from a tiger and even killing the big cat.