Survey on endangered Gangetic dolphin started

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Guwahati, Feb 11 (UNI) In a bid to protect and preserve one of the three last surviving river dolphin species in the world, a survey to assess the current population status of the endangered Gangetic dolphin in the Brahmaputra river was started today.

This survey is a part of the population assessment survey and identification of important dolphin habitats in the entire Brahmaputra river system, which is supported by the IUCN-World Conservation Union and technically by IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group.

A team of 15 biologists and conservationists of Aaranyak, an environmental organisation, left Guwahati today, with Dr Abdul Wakid leading the team, an Aaranyak release informed.

A similar survey conducted by a team led by Dr Wakid in 2005 in the entire Brahmaputra river system recorded about 250 dolphins in the entire valley, with 27 in the 76 km stretch of Kulsi River, 26 in Subansiri River and 197 in the 856 km long Brahmaputra mainstream (from Assam-Arunachal border to India-Bangladesh border).

Another survey in 1993, led by Dr R S Lal Mohan, recorded 266 dolphins in the Brahmaputra mainstream, where the 2005 survey recorded only 197 dolphins in the same stretch, which is roughly 26 per cent less in 12 years.

Dr Wakid is among the 88 internationally recognised cetacean (dolphin) specialists of IUCN-World Conservation Union's Species Survival Commission. In India there are only two such IUCN recognised cetacean experts, the other being Prof R K Sinha of Patna University, working in Ganges.

Ganges River dolphins (Platanista gangetica gangetica), which is among the three last surviving river dolphin species in the world, is found in the Ganges-Brahmaputra River system, primarily in India and Bangladesh.

They are listed as Endangered by the IUCN World Conservation Union following population decline by at least 50 per cent, since the factors causing the decline - fishing, diversion of water, pollution and fragmentation of habitat - were still present, irreversible and not fully understood.

This current project is designed to provide baseline information on the recent distribution, abundance, behaviour and acoustics of Ganges River dolphins in the Brahmaputra River and will suggest suitable locations to establish protected areas to the management authorities.

The robust scientific data generated is expected to help in making informed management decisions that will safeguard this important and vulnerable population in Brahmaputra Valley.

UNI SG DPM RD 1327

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