A photograph of an Indian wolf taken by a Kolkata-based naturalist in the Sunderbans has sent wildlife officials in the state into tizzy.
For, this is the first time that a wolf has ever been spotted in Sunderbans – in both the Indian as well as the Bangladesh region of the forest.
When naturalist Riddhi Mukherjee took the photograph, he says he had no idea that the animal was an Indian wolf.
“I actually thought it was probably a golden jackal. It never occurred to me that it could be a wolf because I had never heard of wolves existing in the Sunderbans. It’s only after I came back and I consulted some wildlife experts that they told me that this was unmistakably an Indian wolf,” he said.
This is not the first time that Mukherjee has been to the Sunderbans on photography expeditions.
“I go often for wildlife photography. This time I went with two of my friends. I reached Jatirampur village on the evening of April 14,’’ he said. It was in the forests near this village that Mukherjee saw and photographed the wolf that emerged from the forests for 15 minutes and then went away. Jatirampur village in Pakhirala is located opposite Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary.
“When we were at the village, we heard stories of this mysterious looking animal that was lifting cattle and other animals. But, we didn’t know what it was. We still don’t know if it was this wolf at all,” he said.
Principal Conservator Forests, West Bengal, Pradip Vyas, speaking to The Indian Express, said that the sighting is now being investigated by the department.
“We have installed cameras in the area two days ago for more such sightings. I cannot comment on whether this was actually the Indian wolf or not till the investigation is complete. Indian wolves are not found in the Sunderbans region at all. This region is where you primarily find large cats. If it is an Indian wolf, then we have to ascertain how it got there. Did it travel from somewhere? Has it been breeding? If so there must be a pack of wolves around there as well. There are many unanswered questions which we are looking into now,’’ said Vyas.
Wolves in Bengal are mostly found in the western part of the state, which shares its border with Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, and live in semi-arid grasslands and scrub lands. Wolves are an endangered species in India and there are currently an estimated less than 2,000 wolves in the country.