Dolphin census in Bhitarkanika

 Irrawaddy dolphins inhabiting areas along the brackish water bodies and Gahirmatha sea waters in Bhitarkanika in Odisha are being brought under annual census operation for the first time.

PTI| Last Updated: Feb 15, 2015, 12:19 PM IST

Paradip: Irrawaddy dolphins inhabiting areas along the brackish water bodies and Gahirmatha sea waters in Bhitarkanika in Odisha are being brought under annual census operation for the first time.

Headcount of dolphins is for the first time being taken up in Bhitarkanika. A status survey of these marine animals is vital for the study of growth pattern of species living within brackish water bodies and shallow sea waters of this Ramsar international wetland site, said forest officials.

As the sighting of dolphins has become a routine feature for wildlife personnel doing the turtle patrolling duty, the forest department started census of these mammal today. The operation is scheduled to go on for a week.

Nine teams comprising about 40 wildlife experts and state forest department officials have been formed to cover the habitation corridors and make head count of these mammals, said Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasana Acharya.

Each team was equipped with binoculars, GPS set, rangefinder and data recording sheets. The enumerators would travel by water to cover salt-water creeks in outer wheelers?, Chinchini river mouth, Barunei river mouth, Jatadhari river mouth, Devi river mouth, Dhamra, Kajalapatia, Nalitapatia, Khola, Kalibhanjadiha, Jamboo, Kharinasi, Hukitola brackish water bodies, Acharya said.

Besides the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, an ideal habitat for Irrawaddy dolphins, would also come under purview of surveyors, he said.

Every year the forest department conducts annual headcount of estuarine crocodiles, winter migrant avian species, monsoon migrant water birds. Count is also made of the number of Olive Ridley turtles engaged in annual mass nesting at Gahirmatha beach.

Chilika, Odisha's other Ramsar international wetland site, accounted for 145 Irrawaddy dolphins population. There is every likelihood that there is sizeable population of dolphins in Bhitarkanika national park. Officials have spotted the Dolphins frequently leaping above the water surface during turtle conservation patrolling operation.