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ANNUAL GANGES RIVER DOLPHIN CENSUS

Written by Talent KAS

Related Topics: Environment & Biodiversity, Wildlife Census

News

  • The annual Ganges river dolphin census along about 250-km-long riverine stretch of Upper Ganga between Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary and Narora Ramsar site began in Bijnor.
  • It is undertaken by World Wide Fund for Nature-India in collaboration with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department.
  • Last year the census count was 33, including three calves.

New Methodology

  • Unlike previous years, when direct counting method was used, this year the tandem boat survey method is being used.
  • The method was developed by the renowned river and marine ecologist Gill Braulik and provides a more accurate count of the endangered species.
  • The officials use two inflated boats which move in tandem to count the dolphins.
  • After collating the data, statistical tools are employed to arrive at the final count.
  • In this process, the officials will not announce the number of sightings on a daily basis.

Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista Gangetica)

Distribution

It is found in parts of the Ganges-Meghna-Brahmaputra and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Threats

  • The main reasons for decline in population of the species are poaching and habitat degradation.
  • Dumping of single-use plastic, industrial pollution, fishing and dredging are some of the threats to the dolphins in the region.
  • The increase in the number of barrages and dams is also affecting their growth as such structures impede the flow of water.

Significance

  • It has mythological significance in addition to the tourist attraction.
  • It is among the four ‘obligate’ freshwater dolphins in the world.
  • Its presence indicates the health of the riverine ecosystem

Features

  • The animal is known to make strange sounds when it breathes, earning it the name ‘Susu’.
  • Being a mammal, it has to come to the surface to breathe.
  • It is called a blind dolphin because it doesn’t have a crystalline eye lens and uses echolocation to navigate and hunt. It is crucial to find prey in the murky waters of the Ganga.
  • Like bats, they produce high-frequency sounds which help them to ‘see’ objects when the sound waves bounce off them.

Conservation Status

  • IUCN Status: Endangered
  • It was declared as National Aquatic Animal of India on 10th May 2010.
  • It has been included in the Schedule I for the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) in its efforts of biodiversity conservation in Ganga River basin has been working further on the Ganges River Dolphin Conservation Action Plan

[Source: The Hindu, wwf.panda.org]

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