Ganges River Dolphin in dire straits: IUCN
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Last Updated: Monday, July 20, 2009, 14:47
Dubai: Dolphin hotspots must be protected if the Ganges River Dolphin is to survive in the Brahmaputra river system, a recent study has revealed.

Estimates have put the total population of the Ganges River Dolphins at around 2,000 globally. Out of these, between 240 to 300 inhabit the Brahmaputra River system in India, the survey conducted by Sir Peter Scott Fund project of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has said.

The survey concentrated on the 1,044 km stretch of dolphin-inhabited Brahmaputra River system, primarily in Assam of North East India.

"Our research shows accidental killing through fisheries by-catch, followed by poaching for oil, are the major threats to the dolphins of the Brahmaputra river system," says Project leader Abdul Wakid.

"Their habitat is also being degraded by human activities. Dam building and a proposed seismic survey in the Brahmaputra river are potential threats," an IUCN release said.

The project, funded by Foundation Ensemble, was prompted by the need for some robust dolphin population data after Oil India Ltd. proposed to start prospecting for oil along the bed of the Brahmaputra River using air guns and explosives.

The Ganges River Dolphin is found mainly in the Ganges and Brahmaputra river systems in India and Bangladesh.

The research identified eight river sections as potential protected areas and community-based dolphin conservation as the best strategy to save the dolphins.

"The Brahmaputra River is very important habitat for these endangered dolphins," says Gill Braulik, of IUCN's Cetacean Specialist Group.

"To protect them it is vital that we involve local river communities. In some places, like in the Kukurmara area of Kulsi River, for example, the dolphins are a tourist attraction due to protection by local communities. But in other areas, dolphins are accidentally killed in fishing nets or are sometimes deliberately caught and killed for their oil," he added.

The project carried out 32 awareness campaigns along the Brahmaputra valley, focusing on fishing communities in areas surrounding dolphin hotspots.

Bureau Report

First Published: Monday, July 20, 2009, 14:47

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