Wildlife board to look after Ganges dolphins

February 25th, 2008 - 4:44 pm ICT by admin  

Patna, Feb 25 (IANS) Although called the sons of the Ganges, the number of freshwater dolphins has been falling due to pollution and poaching. The National Board for Wildlife (NBW) has now decided to come to the rescue of the endangered species. The NBW has, for the first time, selected freshwater dolphins for conservation along with five other endangered species - the snow leopard, Kashmiri stag, wild buffalo, great Indian bustard and Jerdon’s courser.

Official sources said the NBW would be allocated funds for the conservation work under the next five-year plan.

According to official estimates, India’s river dolphin population is a little over 1,500. Half of these are found in the Ganges in Bihar but their numbers have dropped drastically over the past few decades. In the 1980s, the Gangetic delta alone had around 3,500 dolphins.

Studies have identified pollution and poaching as the major factors behind the fall in the number of river dolphins. The rapidly shrinking Ganges and the river’s changing course are also threatening the dolphins.

The dolphins are often killed for their skin and oil. Fishermen also kill them to use their fat to prepare fish bait.

“Dolphins are locally called the sons of the Ganges river, but pollution and rampant fishing are threatening their existence,” said Gopal Sharma, a researcher.

R.K. Sinha, who heads the central government’s dolphin conservation project, said the dolphins would disappear unless urgent steps were taken to clean up the Ganges.

Nearly a decade ago, a dolphin sanctuary - the Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary - was set up on the Ganges at Kahalgaon near Bhagalpur. This is Asia’s only fresh water dolphin sanctuary, spread over a 50 km stretch of the Ganges.

In 1996, freshwater dolphins were categorised as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Despite an order issued by the Patna High Court in 2001 that asked the state government to check poaching, at least three dolphins were reportedly killed last year.

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