BARPETA, Aug 20 - Even as the discovery of the black jackal � an unheard of species in India � in a forest in Barpeta district created sensation and confounded wildlife experts, a shocking lack of coordination within the Forest Department has frustrated the identification process for the species through DNA testing even after an injured animal was kept in the Assam State Zoo for nine days.
The black jackal, which had been brought from Barpeta on August 4, was kept in the Zoo before it was released in its home forest on August 13.
The Zoo authorities had stated earlier that blood sample of the animal would be collected for genetic testing. According to experts, it could either be a melanistic jackal or a different sub-species.
�We could not get the blood sample as the Forest authorities in Barpeta wanted the animal to be released as early as possible. In fact, the day it was sent back to Barpeta, we were keeping it under �fasting� so that blood samples could be collected next morning and sent to the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology. But, the Barpeta Forest authorities were adamant on its release that very day,� a Zoo official told The Assam Tribune.
Sources in Barpeta Forest department, however, sought to refute the allegation, saying that during its long stay in the Zoo, the Zoo authorities got ample time to collect blood sample but were lackadaisical in their approach.
�The animal did not have any serious injury and it stayed in the Zoo long enough to enable collection of blood sample. They did not do it for reasons best known to them,� sources said.
Girindra Adhikary, DFO, Barpeta, added that a DNA test warranted adherence to certain protocols which were not maintained. �But, we will see to it that a DNA test is carried out in the near future.�
The developments make it clear that the authorities were not serious on the matter and there was a clear communication gap between the Zoo authorities, the Barpeta Forest authorities, and the higher Forest authorities in the government, negating a possibility of proper identification of the animal believed either to be a melanistic version of the golden jackal or a sub-species.
Conservationist David Das, who first highlighted the black jackal phenomenon, said that it was unfortunate that a chance to pinpoint the animal�s identity was wasted in that manner.
�We all were eagerly anticipating a DNA test that could have put an end to the speculations over the animal�s identity,� he added.
The pack of black jackals was discovered recently in a forested area by the Nakhanda river in Barpeta. They were seen inhabiting the space with the common golden jackal.
Melanism is a development of the dark-coloured pigment melanin in the skin or its appendages and is the opposite of albinism. It is mostly found in big cat species when members of the species exhibit what�s called a melanistic colour variation that results in black fur. The term melanistic is mostly applied to the jaguar (Panthera onca) and the leopard (Panthera pardus). In the case of jaguars, the black coat is caused by a dominant allele, while it�s a recessive allele leopards can thank for their black fur.