No Ordinary Wolf

Rakesh Lohumi / The Tribune / Chandigarh, India


The discovery that it was no ordinary wolf but a new Himalayan species whose lineage has been traced back to 8,00,000 years has made Julie a prized possession for the Himalayan Nature Park Kufri, near here.

The female animal was brought to the park about 14 years ago, after being rescued from the cold desert of Spiti along with a male wolf. Both were a few months old then. The male died after a few years and Julie remained there as a non-descript animal.

Julie acquired the status of a "special animal" only recently after the scientists of the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, discovered its ancestral lineage while conducting the genetic study of the Indian wolves.

Dr Yadvendradev Jhala and Dr Dinesh Kumar, the two scientists who carried out the study in collaboration with Dr R. Flelscher and Dr J. Maldonado of the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, compared over 700 DNA sequences of wolves and dogs from the world over with those of the Indian wolves and dogs.

They were surprised to find that the wolves from the Himalayan region of eastern Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, parts of Tibet and eastern Nepal were genetically different and belonged to a very ancient, divergent and ancestral lineage of wolves - the Himalayan lineage.

The molecular clock based on the rate of changes observed in the DNA sequences dated the time of divergence of this lineage back to about 8,00,000 years ago.

Dr A.K. Gulati, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Wildlife, said the department would request the wildlife institute to prepare a project to ascertain the status of Himalayan wolf so that a conservation breeding programme could be started. He said a mate could be found for Julie as the state had earlier gifted a pair of wolves rescued from Spiti to the Sarojni Naidu Nation Zoological Park, Darjeeling. However, their DNA would have to analysed to ascertain whether they belonged to the same species.