A picture of purportedly an Indian wolf ( Canis lupus pallipes ) captured by a naturalist has taken wildlife enthusiasts and forest department officials in West Bengal by surprise.
While the State forest department was yet to verify the veracity of the claim, the photograph has sparked speculation whether the Indian wolf, categorised as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, was in fact spotted in the mangrove forest.
“During our photography tour to the Sunderban National Park, we sighted one individual of Indian wolf on 14 April [Friday]. We were able to take a few record photographs before it vanished into the mangrove thicket,” Riddhi Mukherjee, who claims to have photographed the animal told The Hindu.
The Indian wolf is a Schedule I animal in the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 of India.
Mr. Mukherjee, who along with two friends, Anupam Mukherjee and Suvayu Paul, claims to have spotted the animal at Jyotirampur in the buffer zone of the Sunderbans. He said he was only “happy” to share the details with the State Forest Department.
Explaining that the Indian wolf prefers to live in scrublands, grasslands and semi-arid pastoral, agricultural landscape, Mr. Mukherjee said this was the first record of an Indian wolf from a “mangrove terrain”.
Pradeep Vyas, West Bengal’s Chief Wildlife Warden, however, said the forests of the Sunderbans did not have the habitat to sustain wolves.
“There is the likelihood of the presence of only one wolf in the village, but not in the forests. There has never been any wolf recorded in the forests in the history, and the area dows not have the habitat to sustain wolves,” Mr. Vyas said.
He said ‘camera traps’ had been placed in the area, which would have captured the animal if it was in fact roaming there. “We have seen the photographs taken by local residents. They are certainly of value but our people [wildlife officials] have not seen [the animal].” Mr. Vyas added.
The Indian region of the Sunderbans has a population of about 100 tigers.