It all started when Muntasir Akash read a news report in which there was a photo of an animal dead, beaten, legs splayed, hanging from the makeshift post. It was killed by the local people of Taltoli village in the world’s largest mangrove forest, Bangladeshi Sundarbans.
Akash is a wildlife biologist at the University of Dhaka and he tells us how the story began. The white patch around the cheek and the throat of the dead carnivorous animal are what struck the biologist.
He sent emails to his colleagues with the pictures of dead animal. Two of them (Jan Kamler and William Duckworth) agreed with Akash’s suspicions of this animal being a wolf but the problem was that there were no wolves in Bangladesh then where did this come from. And there hadn’t been a wolf documented in Bangladesh since 1949.
Akash was so confused at this point that he reached out to his other colleagues to help him out but most of them thought it’s just a golden jackal, although Jackals are not quite common in Bangladesh too. Akash was able to get the unpublished pictures from the deputy commissioner of the Bangura district at that time, the District where the animal was killed. But the new photos made him and his colleagues believe more that it was an Indian wolf.
To prove his doubts right Akash went to the place where the animal was buried. By the time he reached Taltoli the animal had been dead for a week. The body was buried near the local branch office of the Bangladesh Forest Department. He along with some local ranger dug out the animal.
He says, “When I saw the animal’s skull for the first time my idea became even more firm, it could never be a Jackal or any other canine species it was a wolf”
He took the samples of hair and tissue from the legs so the DNA test can confirm that it is a wolf.
But the real question that arises is how these wolves can be here. These are the creatures of grasslands, scrubs, areas between wilderness and agriculture and deciduous forests. But even then this wasn’t the first wolf sighted in Bangladesh. In 2017 a wildlife photographer Riddhi Mukherjee captured an amazing photo of a wolf on the Indian side of the Sundarbans more than 300km from the nearest known wolf population in Purulia district.
Sometimes animals do weird things like migrating from their birthplace and settling in new places or showing up at strange places. But could this mean that this is the same wolf as the one seen near Sundarbans in 2017 and nothing else?
But Akash is convinced that this can never be the same wolf even though wolves can cover a great distance, the wolf would need to travel through lots of places before reaching Sundarban.
But Hiraj Majhi a local journalist may have a different theory. The problem with wolf didn’t start until the Cyclone Fani passed through the region in early May and after that, there were many incidents of sudden attacks of an unknown animal on the livestock. At first, the locals believed that it was a tiger but, a dog-like animal was seen on four occasions and the locals ran out of patience and grabbed it.
Akash says that there must be a population of wolves in Sundarbans. And they can even survive here because they won’t have any problem regarding food or anything else.
He further says that now is the time that we need to look for the population so that if there is a population of wolf, we can take measures to conserve them and allowing these wolves a chance to thrive.
Akash concludes “I am sure that there is a population of the wolf in Sundarbans and I can bet everything on their presence”