Karachi was submerged following destructive monsoon rains on Tuesday. Many areas were inundated and videos of cars floating away and people walking in knee-deep water started making rounds on social media. A forwarded message and video claiming that crocodiles have escaped from Manghopir and were spotted on roads were shared on WhatsApp too.
The Sindh Wildlife Department received complaints and sent two officials, Hasnain and Naeem, went to the Manghopir shrine and found the news to be "baseless".
Sindh Wildlife Officials Hasnain & Naeem, deputed for covering wildlife issues within Karachi city premises rushed 2 shrine of 'Mangho Pir' on news spread on social media regarding escape of sacred crocodile having historical significance with the shrine— SindhWildlife (@sindhwildlife) August 24, 2020
The news proved baseless! pic.twitter.com/K5uYKhr2a3
Wildlife Inspector Naeem said that they had received complaints of people spotting a crocodile in the ground near Akhtar School in New Karachi. When we came to the location, we even met the man who claimed he saw the reptile. He even showed a video on his mobile phone to the wildlife team but they deduced that the video was from India and not Pakistan.
The man had shown the video to the children in the area and this created panic there. He, however, escaped when his claims were proven to be wrong, said Naeem.[caption id="attachment_2113131" align="alignnone" width="800"] A picture of the flooded ground where the New Karachi had reportedly spotted a crocodile. The Sindh Wildlife Department surveyed the ground and the area on August 26, 2020. Photo: SWD[/caption]
The wildlife team then went to spoke to the caretaker of the shrine.
Muhammad Sajjad, the caretaker, said this news was just speculation. He showed the sulphur springs where the crocodiles are found and said 20-feet long walls have been built around it, making it impossible for the crocodiles to escape.
The drainage system at the spring is efficient and drains out water before it is even accumulated. So, it is not possible that the crocodiles just flow out of the shrine and onto the roads either, Sajjad explained.
The government has installed CCTV cameras at the shrine so we can tell if any such thing happens, he added.
"The pictures being shared could be of Bangladesh," Sajjad theorised, adding that people should be careful before spreading panic by sharing fake news.
He went on to say that these crocodiles are not beasts. They are manifestations of a Sufi Hazrat Khawaja Hasa, who is also known as Manghopir Sakhi Sultan, and should be respected, he said.
There are at least 400 crocodiles at the shrine.
This is not the first time such news has been reported. In Karachi, almost every year fake news claiming crocodiles were spotted on city roads during rains is shared on social media.
SAMAA Digital was also able to trace some of the videos to India's Vadodara, where a river filled with 260 crocodiles overflowed in Gujarat following heavy rains in August 2019.
About 5,000 people were evacuated from their homes as water from the overflowing crocodile-infested Vishwamitri River spread through the city of 1.2 million people, reported Gulf News.
Sindh Wildlife Conservator Javed Mahar shared a picture with SAMAA Digital that he received on WhatsApp along with the complaint of crocodile spotting.
The team's in-house Photoshop expert said that the picture has clearly been manipulated.
The picture shows that the reptile has no reflection and there are usually waves when it moves in any water. This picture does not show any of that, according to the expert.