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On the reappearance of the Indian grey wolf in Bangladesh after 70 years: what do we know?

Abstract

The Indian grey wolf, Canis lupus pallipes Sykes, 1831, is a small, cryptic subspecies and the only wolf living in arid plains and deserts of the Indian subcontinent. Since 1950, it has been considered extinct beyond 88° east longitude. Herein, we report an instance from Bangladesh after 70 years. A solitary male of C. l. pallipes was killed in retaliation in June 2019 as livestock predation events erupted and lasted for a month after a severe cyclone had swept coastal Bangladesh. The specimen was about 119 cm from nose to tail tip with a skull length of 26.23 cm. Two molecular markers, mt d-loop control region and 16S rRNA, and 54 cranial parameters consolidated the identity. Bayesian inference and maximum-likelihood analyses indicated its intraspecies position. The locality of conflict, 450 km eastward of the easternmost population of C. l. pallipes, is adjacent to the Sundarbans in the Ganges estuary that presents formidable tidal rivers as dispersal barriers. In 2017, another wolf was sighted from the Indian Sundarbans vicinity. The present incident and the sighting of 2017 remarkably appeared from the farthest corners of a 10,000 km2 strong mangrove network that is rimmed by dense human settlements. The records surmise about the most challenging wolf dispersal route ever recorded. Additionally, the south-central coasts of Bangladesh, once home to wolves, bear old planted mangroves with open dunes but never surveyed for mammals. These facts necessitate a systematic camera-trapping in the coastal mangroves of Bangladesh exclusively intended for wolves.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Bangladesh Forest Department as they preserved the specimen with care, and provided permission and cooperation for carrying out the research. We are thankful to Dr Yadvendradev Jhala, Dr Jan F Kamler, and Dr William Duckworth for their comments on the identification. For administrative support, we are grateful to Dr M Anwarul Islam and Kabir Mahmood, the district commissioner of Barguna. We also owe our thanks to Hairaj Majhi for providing the necessary information.

Funding

The research was a self-funding endeavor.

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MA conducted the fieldwork with the assistance of FTZM and DCH. HK and MRI designed the protocol for DNA study. RNR and UFC carried out the lab work. MA and UFC prepared the manuscript. All authors reviewed and approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Muntasir Akash.

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The collection of tissue samples and examination of the skull was carried out under the permission of the Bangladesh Forest Department. The skeletal remains, after examination, stay under the custody of the Amtali Range Office, an outpost of the Bangladesh Forest Department.

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Akash, M., Chowdhury, U., Khaleque, FTZ. et al. On the reappearance of the Indian grey wolf in Bangladesh after 70 years: what do we know?. Mamm Biol 101, 163–171 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42991-020-00064-4

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Keywords

  • Wolf
  • Canis lupus pallipes
  • Sundarbans
  • Bangladesh