LAHORE: For the first time in Pakistan, a detailed postmortem of a blind Indus dolphin was conducted at Lahore Zoo after it was recovered dead from the banks of the Indus near Ghazi Ghat, Dera Ghazi Khan, officials told Dawn.

Lahore Zoo Director Hassan Ali Sukhera described it a major achievement of Lahore Zoo.

He said a comprehensive postmortem of the dolphin was conducted recently at the zoo with the collaboration of Nanjing Normal University China, University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences Lahore and College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Punjab University. This immature female dolphin was named Laila DGK-1.

He further said the dolphin was preserved at -20 degree Celsius and brought to the Lahore Zoo for a detailed study. A complete CT Scan and X-rays were conducted to understand the anatomy of this mammal.

The animal was dissected and different body systems were studied in detail. Histopathology of different tissue samples was also under process for further research.

Mr Sukhera said the Indus river dolphin, locally known as Bhullan, is an endangered freshwater species in Pakistan and inhabits in the Indus river system. Although the number of this mammal is increasing in fresh waters of the river due to the steps taken by the Punjab and Sindh wildlife and parks departments and WWF-Pakistan, it is still facing threats such as anthropogenic pressure, fragmentation of habitat and loss of habitat. It is protected under the Punjab wildlife law 1974. This study will be useful for the conservation and management of this dolphin in the Indus river.

Elaborating on how the dolphin was found, the director said Punjab wildlife department is running a project, titled ‘Improvement and Development of Chashma Barrage Wetland Biodiversity on Indus River’. Besides the main objective of the project to protect and conserve biodiversity of Chashma Barrage Wetland, it also sought efforts to determine the population status of Blind Indus Dolphin in the stretch of the river between Jinnah Barrage and Guddu Barrage and translocation and reintroduction of the dolphin from Taunsa Barrage downstream to the river stretch between Jinnah and Chashma barrages.

The director said that among many reasons of the dolphins dying in the Indus, the strongest was that it was often stranded in water pools owing to the low flow of the river and escaped from the main river flow into canals even.

Zoo veterinarian Rizwan Khan told Dawn that the study of the blind Indus dolphin would be helpful in understanding its anatomy, histology, physiology and phylogenetic lineages, which will ultimately help conserve this endangered species.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2019

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