KARACHI (PPI) - Marsh crocodile, an endangered specie, high in demand due to its commercial value, is fast vanishing in Sindh and Balochistan owing to diversion of water channels and hunting in order to export its skin. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Pakistan sources told PPI that a study was carried out to record the population and distribution of crocodiles in Sindh and Balochistan. Results showed that the major population of crocodiles was concentrated in Sanghar, Khairpur and Nawabshah districts in Sindh while in Balochistan in four major rivers including Dasht, Hingol, Nari and Hub. Out of three species of crocodilian in Indian Sub-Continent, only one known as mugger or marsh crocodile is found in Pakistan. The specie is regarded endangered and near extinction in Pakistan. Increasing human population, intensification of agricultural practices, hunting, building dams and diversion of water channels for irrigation purpose are considered to be major reasons for the decline in their population. "In Sindh, marsh crocodile is currently surviving in limited areas and only a few places along coastal areas in Balochistan. According to the consolidated results, the estimated population of crocodiles is 492, however, only 164 were reported seen in Sindh. The estimated population in Balochistan was 64 while only 24 were observed," sources said. However, captive breeding/farming of marsh crocodile was being carried out in Haleji, Shamzoo Park and Khar Center. The specie still requires greater protection of its habitat in order to survive in Pakistan. The study revealed that further degradation of its habitat might lead to extinction of marsh crocodile from Pakistan. The role of crocodile in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem should be realised and the misconception that it damages or totally depends on fish population should be eliminated. Chotiari reservoir and wetland ecosystem in Sanghar district of Sindh is also known as home of marsh crocodile. Chotiari reservoir is formed by group of sub-tropical lakes. The reservoir is interconnected between several lakes namely Baqar, Akanwari, Tajar, Phuleli, Seri and Sao Naro. These lakes are surrounded by the Nara Canal, which is major source of water to them. A considerable population of marsh crocodile was recorded in the Makhi area in 1997, but they have become increasingly rare. The crocodiles were hunted by the local fishermen, who used to sell their skins in the market. They have stopped this practice now due to an international ban on the trade of crocodile skins. The python, which was once found in abundance in Chotiari area has also become rare and is on the verge of extinction from the area. A variety of other snakes and geckos are also found in the Chotiari area. Makhi forest was once famous for its rich reserves of quality honey, commercially valued wood and plants with medicinal values. The forest was also the stronghold of the freedom movement launched by the Hurs (followers of Pir Pagaro) against the colonial British power during the 1930s. During the uprising, the Hurs would hide in the forest. To suppress the "Hur Revolt" the British rulers converted a large part of these woodlands into agriculture areas. Chotiari wetland's lakes situated in Sanghar and in other districts along the left bank of the Nara Canal are homes for crocodile, fish, otters and turtles. The lakes are also a feeding and nesting ground for a variety of resident and migratory birds like the Marbled Teal. The lotus flowers grow naturally all along the Nara Canal and near the embankments of the Chotiari reservoir. The flowers are not only beautiful to look at, they are used in various foods as well. The fruit of the lotus is also eaten as dessert, whereas the roots used as vegetables and cooked. They make for a tasty and nutritious meal. The Chotiari reservoir area is exceptionally rich in biological diversity and posses a great potential for tourism. More motorboats should be provided and desert safaris can easily be arranged.