Endangered Irrawaddy dolphins’ number goes up in Orissa lake

February 27th, 2008 - 7:45 pm ICT by admin  

Bhubaneswar, Feb 27 (IANS) The number of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in Orissa’s Chilika Lake has increased to 138 against last year’s 135, an official said here Wednesday. The latest figure was known after a census carried out by officials Monday and Tuesday with the help of local fishermen, chief executive of the Chilika Development Authority Sudarshan Panda said.

The census was carried out with help from scientists from Japan University, Tokyo, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, Natural History Society, Mumbai, World Wildlife Fund and a few other organizations.

The census was carried out with head count as well as by using a system that records the sound of the dolphins, he said, adding that 18 teams participated in the exercise.

The Chilika Lake, about 100 km from here, is spread over Puri, Khordha and Ganjam districts of the state and is home to the largest congregation of migratory birds in the country.

It was declared one of the six wetlands of international importance at the Ramsar Convention on Migratory Species of Arctic and Central Asian Waterfowl.

Irrawaddy dolphins were first recorded in this lake in 1915. But their numbers, movements between coastal and lagoon waters, and mortality rates have remained undocumented.

Although dolphins in Chilika are not hunted for their meat, mechanised fishing trawlers and tourist boats with large propellers often affect the mammals.

The Irrawaddy dolphins are estimated to be less than 1,000 in the world.

Apart from Chilika, Irrawaddy dolphins are also found in the Songkhla Lake in Thailand. While it is difficult to spot them in Thailand, the dolphins can be easily sighted in Orissa.

Adult Irrawaddy dolphins range in length from two metres to 2.75 metres and are thought to reach sexual maturity at the age of three or four years. Adult females probably have only one calf every two to three years, officials said.

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