Conservationists and government officials alike are hoping that the Ganges River and Irrawaddy dolphins won’t go the way of the dinosaur—or more aptly, the Yangtze River dolphin, which recently went extinct.
The Government of Bangladesh declared three new wildlife sanctuaries to help protect these last two remaining species of freshwater dolphins in Asia. The officials created the sanctuaries in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem. WCS helped pinpoint the locations of the protected areas through conservation work.
Although there is no global population estimate for either species, both Ganges River and Irrawaddy dolphins have disappeared from major portions of their range. Conservationists hope the Sundarbans, still home to sufficient numbers of both species, will serve as a global safety net for preventing their extinction.
The three wildlife sanctuaries safeguard 19.4 miles of channels with a total area of 4.1 square miles. The locations and sizes of the sanctuaries in the Sundarbans were determined according to a study conducted by WCS and Bangladesh Forest Department and published in the journal Oryx in 2010. The study found that the habitat of Ganges River and Irrawaddy dolphins were clumped in waterways where human activities are most intense.
“Declaration of these Wildlife Sanctuaries is an essential first step in protecting Ganges River and Irrawaddy dolphins in Bangladesh,” said Brian D. Smith, Director of WCS’s Asian Freshwater and Coastal Cetacean Program, and first author of study. “As biological indicators of ecosystem-level impacts, freshwater dolphins can inform adaptive human-wildlife management to cope with climate change, suggesting a broader potential for conservation and sustainable development.”
The dolphins are threatened by various fatal entanglements in fishing gear and due to the depletion of their prey from the enormous bycatch of fish and crustaceans in fine-mesh “mosquito” nets used to catch fry for shrimp farming. A further risk to their survival is posed by increasing salinity and sedimentation caused by sea-level rise and changes in the availability of upstream freshwater flow.
Freshwater dolphins are among the most threatened wildlife on earth. Dam construction and unsustainable fisheries, among other human activities, highly impacts their habitat. In addition to conserving globally important populations of freshwater dolphins, the new wildlife sanctuaries in the Sundarbans will provide protection for threatened river terrapins, masked finfoot, and small-clawed otters.
Bangladesh has been recognized as a “hotspot” for dolphins, whales and porpoises. In April 2009, WCS announced the discovery of the world’s largest population of nearly 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins in the country. A portion of this population shares habitat with the endangered Ganges River dolphin, whose range extends all the way upstream to the shadow of the Himalayas in Nepal.
Support for work on dolphins in the Sundarbans has been provided in part by the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences, Kerzner Marine Foundation, Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong (OPCFHK), and the Indo-Pacific Cetacean Research and Conservation Fund of the Australian Government.
This article was written and published by the Wildlife Conservation Society
You may also like:
Leave a Comment
Top-Viewed Posts Last 30 Days
- POLL: Should the trophy hunting of giraffes be banned? » [4938 Views]
- Tiger family photo surprises scientists » [954 Views]
- Poll: Do you agree that shooting pheasants is good for the countryside? » [784 Views]
- POLL: Should the kill quota on cougars be increased in New Mexico? » [782 Views]
- Poll: Should UK towns and cities be allowed to clip seagulls’ wings? » [719 Views]
- Extreme birdwatching: Twitching in war zones » [664 Views]
- Blue-Bearded Helmetcrest Rediscovered in Colombia, Photographed for First Time » [525 Views]
- POLL: Should spring hunting on Malta be stopped? » [470 Views]
- Rembrandt’s monkey: good news for Africa’s newest primate » [457 Views]
- Newly discovered Brazilian bird may number fewer than 10 individuals » [381 Views]
Top-Viewed Posts Last 12 Months
- » POLL: Should the ban on fox hunting be relaxed in the UK? [10680 Views]
- POLL: Should the trophy hunting of giraffes be banned? » [7549 Views]
- Petition: Stop Lion Canned Hunting in South Africa – Shocking Video » [4157 Views]
- POLL: Should lion canned hunting be banned in South Africa? » [3660 Views]
- Komodo and its Dragons » [3647 Views]
- POLL: Should bear hunting be banned in the US? » [3459 Views]
- Poll: Should hunting of black bears in Florida be allowed? » [2969 Views]
- POLL: Should the slaughter of wolves in British Columbia be banned? » [2939 Views]
- Join the 1st World Giraffe Day and help save these gentle giants » [2875 Views]
- POLL: Should the wolf hunting contest in Idaho be stopped? » [2682 Views]