Dolphin sanctuary suffers from funds crunch

August 21st, 2010 - 11:39 am ICT by IANS  

By Imran Khan
Patna, Aug 21 (IANS) Lack of funds for India’s only dolphin sanctuary in Bihar is badly affecting conservation of the endangered Ganges river dolphin, which is the national aquatic animal.

The Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary is spread over 50 km along the Ganga river in Bhagalpur district.

“No central grants have been allocated to the sanctuary since 2004. It is affecting the conservation of dolphins,” B.A. Khan, Bihar’s principal chief conservator of forests, told IANS.

An official of the sanctuary said: “The central forest and environment ministry had withheld the grants for the sanctuary on account of non-submission of utilisation certificate for grants sanctioned in the financial year 2000-01.”

Khan said the state government would soon approach officials concerned for the restoration of funds.

Set up in 1991, the sanctuary has reported frequent killings of the aquatic animal in the last one year. These dolphins are usually poached for their oil, which is used as an ointment and aphrodisiac.

Ganges river dolphins fall under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act and have been declared an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

R.K. Sinha, an expert on Ganges river dolphins and chairman of the working group for dolphin conservation, alleges that poachers had killed two more dolphins in Bhagalpur and Patna a few weeks ago.

There are only about 2,000 Ganges river dolphins left in the sanctuary, down from tens of thousands just a few decades ago.

The Ganges river dolphin is one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world. The other three are found in the Yangtze river in China, the Indus river in Pakistan and the Amazon river in South America.

The species - found in India, Bangladesh and Nepal - is blind and finds its way and prey in the river waters through echoes.

(Imran Khan can be contacted at imran.k@ians.in)

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